China law bans confessions obtained through torture

Monday, January 14, 2013

The APT submits an open letter to the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, on the introduction of amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law, which take effect from 1 January 2013. These amendments incorporate into national law the requirement to exclude confessions obtained through torture (the exclusionary rule). 

For the first time, the Criminal Procedure Law in China provides that any confessions collected from a detainee by illegal means, such as torture, shall be excluded from all stages of the criminal justice process. The law requires that arrested persons are to be transferred immediately to secure detention facilities, thus avoiding long periods in police custody where detainees are particularly vulnerable. It also provides a process for the protection of detainees during interrogation. Additional complementary provisions provide that a detainee and his legal representative may seek the exclusion of evidence they allege was gathered unlawfully, and significantly, further requires that investigators will be called to explain the legality of impugned evidence, and that confessions are verified in court before they are admitted as evidence in the case.

The APT recognises that the introduction of robust procedural safeguards are essential for the prevention of torture in the criminal justice process. However, once procedural changes have taken effect, no less effort should be spent in ensuring that such important safeguards are implemented effectively in the practices of national authorities. Experience has shown that this is particularly important where long-held practices of national authorities could seek to limit the effect of positive changes to criminal procedure. The APT strongly encourages efforts to ensure that the revised Criminal Procedure Law is effectively implemented and monitored so that these welcome revisions take full effect.