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February 10 2010 | CHINA


Supreme Court, new guidelines: death penalty to be given only in "extremely serious cases"

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China urges judges to limit death penalty

The Supreme Court has urged China's judges to limit the use of death penalty to those convicted of the most serious crimes, under a policy of "justice tempered with mercy", the official Xinhua news agency said.

Guidelines sent to courts nationwide still say the death penalty should be "resolutely" handed down when merited, but this applied only to a "tiny minority" of the most serious cases with ample, valid evidence, Xinhua said in a report late on Tuesday.

China is probably the world's most prolific state executioner, with at least 7 000 people sentenced to death and 1,718 people executed in 2008, according to Amnesty International.

It has drawn criticism from rights activists for the high execution rate and the range of crimes that carry the death penalty. It now applies to more than 60 offences, including many non-violent and economic crimes.

The new guidelines were issued ahead of a world congress against the death penalty, to be held in Geneva this month, at which China is likely to be a focus for discussions.

The rules also call for courts to offer reprieves where allowed by law. When Chinese courts mete out death sentences with a reprieve, they are usually commuted later to life in jail.

Supreme Court spokesman Sun Jungong, quoted by Xinhua, said the guidelines were a new interpretation of the "justice tempered with mercy" policy first approved in 2006.

Repeat offenders should be treated with severity, while children and elderly people who commit crimes should get a more lenient approach from the courts, Xinhua said.

Commutations for those convicted of major crimes, like murder, will be limited, and commutations for ex-officials who abused their position must be heard in court, the guidelines say.

In January 2007, the Supreme People's Court regained the power of final approval of death penalties, devolved to provincial high courts in the 1980s, and it promised to apply the ultimate punishment more carefully.

The high rate of executions was thrown into the international spotlight at the end of last year when a British citizen caught smuggling heroin was put to death, despite pleas for clemency from Britain and his family, who said he was mentally unsound.


Associated Press

China high court stresses 'mercy' in death penalty

China's highest court has issued new guidelines on the death penalty that instruct lower courts to limit its use to a small number of "extremely serious" cases.

The Supreme People's Court told courts to use a policy of "justice tempered with mercy" that takes into consideration the severity of the crime, the state-run Xinhua News Agency quoted court spokesman Sun Jungong as saying in a report late Tuesday.

The guidelines reflect the court's call last July for the death penalty to be used less often and for only the most serious criminal cases. China executes more people than any other country, but the high court has been more outspoken recently about the need to tone it down.

The court reviews all death sentences from lower courts before they are carried out, and its comments have indicated more of those death sentences could be overturned.

Still, China faced strong international criticism at the end of December when it executed a British man accused of drug smuggling, despite a plea for mercy from the British prime minister and concerns that the man had mental problems.

Rights group Amnesty International has said China put at least 1,718 people to death in 2008. China does not release an official count.

The death penalty is used even for nonviolent crimes such as corruption or tax evasion. In recent months, China has executed a dairy farmer and a milk salesman for their roles in a vast tainted milk scandal.

It also sentenced to death a businesswoman for cheating investors out of $56 million, and an explosives maker who supplied an illegal iron mine with material that ignited and killed 26 miners.

One man was sentenced to death after killing four people in what was thought to be China's first death penalty for a drunk-driving case. The sentence was later reduced to life in prison.

The new guidelines say minors and senior citizens should be punished with leniency, Xinhua reported. But they also say crimes involving officials who have misused their position should be handled "with severity" — another strike in China's continuing fight against widespread corruption.

The China Daily newspaper has reported the Supreme People's Court overturned 15 percent of death sentences handed down in 2007 and 10 percent in 2008.




SHANGHAI, 10 FEB - La Corte Suprema del Popolo della Cina ha diramato oggi le linee guida sull'utilizzo della pena di morte nel paese, chiedendo che la ''giustizia venga temperata con la misericordia''. Lo scrive l'agenzia Nuova Cina.

Le linee guida sottolineano come la pena di morte nel paese dovrebbe essere data solo a coloro che hanno commesso crimini ''estremamente seri'' e contro i quali ci siano ampie e valide evidenze.

Queste nuove linee guida rispecchiano il principio della "giustizia con misericordia" gia' presente in un documento approvato nel 2006 dal 16/o comitato centrale del partito Comunista cinese (Cpc).

Secondo le linee guida, i crimini che coinvolgono ufficiali che sfruttano le loro posizioni per trarne vantaggio o le organizzazioni mafiose dovrebbero essere puniti ''con severita''', trattamento da riservare anche ai recidivi, ma da evitare a minori e anziani.

Severita' e' richiesta anche contro omicidi e rapine, per i quali la commutazione della pena capitale in pene minori deve essere limitata fortemente.  



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