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Supreme Court Prepares for Judicial Reform

The Supreme People's Court is selecting professionals throughout China to help its efforts, after the withdrawal of the right to review death sentences in lower courts, the Beijing News has reported.

According to a five-year plan issued by the court last week, the Supreme People's Court will withdraw the death penalty review power in the coming five years.

It is reported that public hearings may be introduced in the future to ensure transparency of the death penalty decision and avoid any unjust cases.

Although the Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedural Law both prescribe that only the Supreme People's Court has the right to approve death sentences, statistics show that 90 per cent of the death sentence review cases are conducted by high courts of provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.

To process the increasing number of cases, the Supreme People's Court will add three criminal tribunals.

Meanwhile, selection of some 400 professionals from society and lower courts has begun, according to the Beijing News.

It is predicted that the amount of death sentences will decline by one-third when the Supreme People's Court reclaims the death review power.

According to an insider quoted by the Beijing News, death sentences in fatal and complex cases will have an open hearing during the judicial review.

It is expected that lawyers, prosecutors, the accused and victims will be able to take part in public hearing in future to avoid any wrongful executions.

(China Daily November 4, 2005)

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