New Rule Has Reduced the Number of Executions in China

by VR Sreeraman on Sep 5 2007 7:58 PM

Fewer people are being executed in China than at any time over the past decade thanks to a new rule that means the country's top court must review every death sentence, state press said Wednesday.

China does not release figures on the number of people it executes and global rights groups such as Amnesty International say thousands of people are put to death each year in the Asian nation, far more than any other country.

But officials with the Supreme People's Court (SPC), the nation's top judiciary body, were quoted in the China Daily newspaper on Wednesday as saying the number of executions had fallen significantly this year.

Executions this year would likely be at their lowest in a decade, the officials said.

From January 1, the Supreme People's Court began reviewing every death penalty case rather than allowing lower courts to issue the final judgement, after authorities acknowledged there were many miscarriages of justice.

"After the SPC took responsibility, death penalty cases have been treated more even-handedly," the court's vice president, Jiang Xingchang, was quoted as saying.

"Applications (for capital punishment) have become stricter and trial procedures are fairer and more streamlined."

However Jiang said there were still flaws in the capital punishment system.

"It is urgent we establish and improve the rules governing evidence, including rules to exclude wrongful evidence," he said.

Amnesty International says that at least 1,010 people were executed in China last year, based on public reports.

But it says the true number of people executed last year in China was likely 7,500-8,000 people.