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More Ethnic Judges, Translators Needed to Cope with Stricter Death Penalty
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Judges and translators of ethnic minorities who can speak both Mandarin and their ethnic languages are in great demand in dealing with death sentences involving ethnic suspects, especially when China becomes cautious in handling death penalty.

"Ethnic language translators are in great demand, especially in the legal field," said Rozi Ismail, chief judge of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, adding legal document translation requires both patience and accuracy.

The country's most important reform on capital punishment in the past two decades requires all death sentences be reviewed and approved by the Supreme People's Court beginning January this year.

Each death sentence must be reviewed by three judges, who are required to check facts, laws and criminal procedures and precedent, according to the reform.

In response to the change, judges of minority ethnic groups have been selected from local courts in Xinjiang to strengthen the review of death penalty, and a special department has been set up to translate legal files from ethnic languages into the Mandarin, the country's official language, said Rozi Ismail, president of the Higher People's Court of Xinjiang.

In Xinjiang which makes up about a sixth of China's land territory, more than 60 percent of the 20 million residents belong to 53 ethnic minorities including the Uygur, Kazak, Tajik and Hui.

China has a total of 55 ethnic minorities, 21 of which boast their own written languages. Han people account for more than 90 percent of the country's total population.

Although there are more than 100,000 ethnic language translators, most of whom have not received professional training, official figures show, and the China Ethnic Language Translation Center plans to train translators and standardize ethnic languages.

"Even a wrongly-translated word can lead to a wrong death penalty and such loss can not be compensated," said Rozi Ismail, who is in Beijing to attend the annual parliamentary session as a nonvoting delegate.

He said the death penalty reform requires judges with abundant open trial experience, who also master ethnic languages, to handle cases involving ethnic suspects.

The right to issue death sentence was given to provincial courts in 1983 to deal with surging crimes. On Jan. 1 this year, the Supreme People's Court took over the responsibility and promised stricter and more appropriate application of capital punishment.

(Xinhua News Agency March 14, 2007)

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