Chinese police officers convicted of torture

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Three police officers and four other people have been convicted in China of torturing suspects to obtain confessions, China’s official news agency Xinhua reported recently.

Seven cases of torture were reported in March 2013 at the Daowai district police, in the northeastern city of Harbin. In one of the cases, the suspect died after having been subjected to electric shocks and violence against the head and face. According to the news agency, the Harbin cases “reflect the chaos in the process of law enforcement and severely hurt the public's trust in the judicial authority."

The conviction of the perpetrators is a positive sign that China is undergoing a process of change, and starting to ensure accountability for the extraction of evidence through coercion. Further recent developments include the 2013 law banning confessions obtained through torture, and the 2012 revisions to the criminal procedure, which provide for several safeguards, including that detainees should be transferred to a detention facility immediately upon arrest, that interrogations should only take place at a detention facility, that audio or video recording must be used to record the entire process, that access to a lawyer is permitted and that any meeting between a  lawyer and their client should be private.

The Supreme Court of China has also issued a document in which it observed that “the traditional concept and practice of a testimony being the most paramount should be changed, and more attention should be paid to examining and using material evidence”.

According to Chinese law, the maximum penalty for using torture to extract confessions is three years' imprisonment, rising to 10 years if severe or disabling injuries are caused, and a potential death penalty.