Archive for ‘Rule of law’

26/01/2015

1.39 million Chinese receive legal assistance – Xinhua | English.news.cn

The Chinese government provided free legal aid services for nearly 1.39 million people in 2014 to help them safeguard their rights, the Economic Daily reported on Monday.

More than one-third of them are migrant workers who are vulnerable to job dismissal and withheld wages and know little about the legal system, the report said, quoting the Ministry of Justice.

The ministry’s statistics showed that about 10 percent more migrant workers than last year said they would like to seek legal assistance if their rights are violated.

Legal service centers have been springing up in streets, communities and prisons across China. The number of new legal service centers in 2014 totaled 70,000, the ministry said. The country will guide more legal service agencies to provide assistance to suspects and defendants in prisons.

It also promised to lower the eligibility standard for people to receive legal assistance and expand services for military personnel.

via 1.39 million Chinese receive legal assistance – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

22/01/2015

China’s Communist Party Sounds Death Knell for Arrest, Conviction Quotas – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Former Chinese judge Jianwei Fang doesn’t mince words about the country’s practice of using arrest and conviction quotas to measure the performance of the country’s police, prosecutors and judges.

“It’s very stupid,” he says.

The Communist Party would appear to agree. This week, the party agency in charge of legal affairs, the Central Political and Legal Committee, called on the country’s legal institutions to “firmly abolish” the inclusion of goals for arrests, indictments, guilty verdicts and case conclusions in assessments of staff, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday.

The demand from the committee appeared to reinforce a decision by the Supreme People’s Court in December to do away with court performance rankings based on quotas and lessen the importance of quotas in assessing performance.

Xinhua’s report drew a connection between performance standards in the Chinese legal system and a proliferation of wrongful convictions, including in death penalty cases. Some of those cases, it said, “were affected by the presumption of guilt, and were caused by an emphasis on confession over evidence, even torture.”

Mr. Fang, who worked as a junior judge in eastern China’s Zhejiang province in the mid-2000s, described the elimination of quotas as one of the most encouraging reforms to be announced following a major Communist Party meeting on rule of law in October.

“Different judges and different courts are competing based on these targets, which are highly unscientific and unreasonable,” he said. “They don’t mean anything.”

Conviction rates for criminal cases in China are well over 90%. It sometimes happens, according to Mr. Fang, that judges and prosecutors may suspect a defendant is innocent but still find him guilty and impose a suspended sentence in order to maintain good conviction numbers.

via China’s Communist Party Sounds Death Knell for Arrest, Conviction Quotas – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

15/01/2015

India’s Courts Resist Reform; Backlog at 31.4 Million Cases – Businessweek

Puneet Mittal, trim and sharply dressed, walks into the lobby of his law office in affluent South Delhi, a smartphone pressed to his ear. He turns to a recently hired associate, Bhavesh Verma. “We’re leaving at 9:30. And I don’t want to waste time.” But through no fault of his own, that’s just what Mittal’s going to do.

India’s Supreme Court

He is making his daily plunge into India’s court system, a maze of delays and procedures that puts even the most basic justice out of reach for millions. At the end of 2013, there were 31,367,915 open cases working their way through the system, from the lowest chambers to the Supreme Court. If the nation’s judges attacked their backlog nonstop—with no breaks for eating or sleeping—and closed 100 cases every hour, it would take more than 35 years to catch up, according to Bloomberg Businessweek calculations. India had only 15.5 judges for every million people in 2013, then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at the time. The U.S. has more than 100 judges for every million.

Beneath a top layer of established attorneys such as Mittal, the courts are plagued by “goondas in black,” a phrase that pairs the Hindi word for “goons” with a sly reference to the black suit jackets lawyers wear in court. To keep collecting fees, these lawyers demand one hearing after another, with no intention of seeking a resolution for their clients, says Alok Prasanna Kumar, senior resident fellow at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, which advocates for a more efficient system. Or, he says, they resort to extortion to make up for a lack of income. A “significant number” of the lawyers, especially outside the capital, have practices that don’t sustain them. That leads them to clog the system with pointless litigation: “The bar in India is in a very bad shape,” Kumar says.

In 2013 there were 31,367,915 open cases in India, from the lowest courts to the Supreme Court

Even the best attorneys can have low-stakes lawsuits last a decade or more. New Delhi lawyer Murari Tiwari describes one 20-year property dispute: His original client has died, as has one of his sons. While the case crawls through the courts, Tiwari says, the two families in litigation, one including an auto-rickshaw driver and the other a retired policeman, live on opposite sides of the same building in an icy détente.

via India’s Courts Resist Reform; Backlog at 31.4 Million Cases – Businessweek.

31/12/2014

$330,000 compensation for family of wrongly executed man – China – Chinadaily.com.cn

The parents of Hugjiltu, an 18-year-old who was executed after being wrongly convicted of raping and killing a woman in 1996, will receive 2,059,621.4 yuan ($332,116) in state compensation, the Higher People’s Court of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region ruled on Tuesday.

$330,000 compensation for family of wrongly executed man

The verdict has been delivered to Li Sanren and Shang Aiyun, parents of Hugjiltu, on Wednesday morning, the court said.

The parents of Hugjiltu said they respect the decision of the court.

Hugjiltu’s mother, Shang Aiyun, holds a photo of her son, who was wrongfully executed 18 years ago. [Photo by Guo Tieliu/for China Daily]

On Dec 15, 2014, the Inner Mongolia Higher People’s Court overturned Hugjiltu’s previous conviction and ruled he was not guilty of rape and murder, saying that the facts of his case were unclear and evidence was inadequate. It was 18 years after the man was executed.

The Intermediate People’s Court of Hohhot found Hugjiltu, a member of the Mongolian ethnic group, guilty of raping and fatally choking a woman in a toilet at a textile factory in Hohhot on April 9, 1996. He was sentenced to death and executed in June of the same year.

The case triggered controversy in 2005 when suspected serial rapist and killer, Zhao Zhihong, confessed to the murder after he was arrested.

Zhao allegedly raped and killed 10 women and girls between 1996 and 2005. He was tried in late 2006, but no verdict has been issued.

via $330,000 compensation for family of wrongly executed man – China – Chinadaily.com.cn.

07/12/2014

China to end use of prisoners’ organs for transplants next month | Reuters

China, the only country that still systematically takes organs from executed prisoners for use in transplant operations, plans to end the controversial practice from next month, a state-run newspaper said on Friday.

The government has over the last year flagged plans to end the practice, which has drawn criticism from rights groups, who have accused authorities of taking many organs without consent from prisoners or their families, a claim Beijing has denied.

The official China Daily said that human organ transplants will from Jan. 1 rely on voluntary public donations and on donations from living relatives.

“Harvesting organs from executed prisoners for transplants is controversial, despite written consent being required from donors and their relatives,” Huang Jiefu, head of the China Organ Donation Committee, was quoted as saying.

via China to end use of prisoners’ organs for transplants next month | Reuters.

03/11/2014

The law at work: No more rooms | The Economist

FOR most of the past 70 years Qiao Shuzhi’s family supported the Communist Party, and the party took good care of the family. Mr Qiao’s father, an underground member during the war against Japan in the 1930s and 1940s, helped store and move military supplies. He was rewarded with a building in the Haidian district of north-western Beijing. In 1953 he turned it into the Tianyi Guesthouse, offering budget lodgings to travellers. Permission for the business was granted, in writing, by China’s police chief at the time.

In the 1960s, Mr Qiao says, Zhou Enlai, who was then prime minister, protected the guesthouse, allowing it to operate as the only private business in Beijing throughout the mayhem of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. When pro-market reforms began in the late 1970s the guesthouse was widely praised as a model family-run operation.

 

Now Mr Qiao, 64, has lost it all. He does not understand why the party, whose Central Committee has just met to extol the “rule of law”, cannot protect him from the developers and officials he accuses of grossly violating it. Wielding a sheaf of official papers that acknowledge his ownership of the building, Mr Qiao says he was abducted and held for 13 hours last December as the building was demolished by what he describes as a network of corrupt officials and developers. All of its contents were lost.

Mr Qiao’s story is far from unique. Since the mid-1990s, tens of millions of Chinese have lost their land. In many cases, only minimal compensation has been offered. Researchers believe that, of thousands of “mass incidents” of rural unrest occurring each year, the majority are about land. In one of the worst recent cases, nine people were killed in mid-October in Yunnan province in the south-west in a dispute over evictions.

In their campaign for redress, Mr Qiao and his son have been stymied at every turn. Local police did not respond when thugs broke the Qiaos’ windows. The electricity bureau did nothing when power to his building was cut. Planning officials scoffed at his request for adequate compensation for the loss of his business. The Qiaos informally approached a local court to assess their chances of suing the government successfully. They were given a brush-off.

Mr Qiao and his son dare not go back to their old street. They are paying a high rent in order to live near Zhongnanhai, the compound housing China’s leaders. They feel that at least they’ll be safer in a well-guarded neighbourhood.

via The law at work: No more rooms | The Economist.

28/10/2014

Top Chinese prosecutor guarantees protection for whistleblowers | Reuters

China’s top prosecuting body said on Tuesday that whistleblowers who expose corruption and other wrongdoing would receive legal protection against reprisals.

President Xi Jinping has made fighting graft a central theme of his administration, warning that the problem was so severe it could threaten the survival of the ruling Communist Party.

The party is keen to harness the power of the Internet in the fight, although it has been hampered by public suspicion that complaints will be ignored, and also by arrests of and even attacks on online whistleblowers.

A statement on the website of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate said it was clarifying the rights of whistleblowers for the first time through new regulations.

“The ‘regulations governing the work of whistleblowers’ require that when the prosecutor’s office receives a whistleblowing report from someone giving their real name, it has to assess the risks from the whistleblowing and develop whistleblower protection plans when necessary to prevent and end acts of retaliation against the whistleblowers,” the statement said.

The prosecutor also promised to respond quickly to such reports.

Last year, the party’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, set up a new website for whistleblowers.

The government had previously set up a website in 2009 specifically for the reporting of corruption. Authorities have investigated some online accusations and jailed several low-level officials.

It is unclear how many tips the site has received in recent months. From 2008 to 2012 the commission said it received 301,000 whistleblowing reports online.

via Top Chinese prosecutor guarantees protection for whistleblowers | Reuters.

05/09/2014

Chinese woman wrongfully jailed for theft given apology and payout 25 years after | South China Morning Post

Twenty-five years after she was locked up behind bars, a Guangdong woman on Thursday received more than 650,000 yuan (HK$818,000) in compensation for being wrongfully imprisoned – in the latest case of corrective measures for miscarried justice in China.

suspect_ap.jpg

Bai Chunrong was sentenced to eight years in prison for theft on July 28, 1989, and served time until she was released in 1996, the Guangdong province newspaper New Express reported.

Bai filed an appeal in March 1990 but the Foshan Intermediate People’s Court upheld the conviction. There were no further details about her crime given in the court announcement.

The same court reopened the case in late March and the judge declared her innocent on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Bai received the compensation from the Foshan court judge, who apologised to Bai for the wrongful conviction.

Bai, crying while kneeling on the floor and kowtowing to the magistrate, said: “I really thank the current court and judge for helping me get vindicated.”

Last month, in a rare acquittal, a court in southeastern Fujian province overturned the death penalty against a food hawker convicted of double murder.

via Chinese woman wrongfully jailed for theft given apology and payout 25 years after | South China Morning Post.

26/08/2014

Top India court says coal allocations were illegal – Businessweek

India’s Supreme Court said Monday that all government allocations of coal reserves to private companies from 1993 to 2010 were conducted illegally, and it will hold a hearing to decide whether to cancel them.

More than 200 coal blocks, or areas of unmined reserves, were allocated during that period to companies for their use in power plants or steel or cement factories. The companies were allowed to sell excess coal on the open market, but the court said commercial sales from the reserves must be suspended until it makes its decision at a hearing on Sept. 1.

The court’s ruling extends beyond the initial case — dubbed “Coalgate” by the Indian media — in which the previous Congress party-led government was accused of costing the treasury hundreds of billions of dollars by selling or allocating about 155 coal blocks in 2004-09 without competitive bidding. A report by the country’s Comptroller and Auditor General leaked to the media in March 2012 estimated those losses to have been around $210 billion.

The scandal along with other high-profile cases of alleged corruption were seen as a key reason for the Congress party’s loss in this year’s elections to Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s pro-business Bharatiya Janata Party.

The court said in its ruling Monday that between 1993 and 2010 there had been “no fair and transparent procedure” in the coal allocation process, “resulting in unfair distribution of the national wealth.”

“Common good and public interest have, thus, suffered heavily,” said the court, led by Chief Justice R.M. Lodha.

via Top India court says coal allocations were illegal – Businessweek.

30/06/2014

China supreme court appoints top environmental judge | Reuters

China’s supreme court has appointed a senior judge to handle environmental cases as the environmentally challenged country bids to get tough on polluters and improve the way its laws are enforced, an official newspaper said on Monday.

China Environmental News, published by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said Deng Xuelin had been appointed as the presiding judge of the Environmental and Resources Tribunal of the Supreme People’s Court.

The tribunal was formally established just two weeks ago.

Beijing, hit by a series of pollution scares and scandals, has vowed to reverse some of the damage done by three decades of untrammeled economic growth, but it has traditionally struggled to impose its will on big industrial enterprises and the local governments that protect them.

The report said the new state tribunal would give “unified guidance and coordination” to the 134 specialist environmental courts that have been set up by local governments, noting that the procedures used to handle such cases was “very informal”.

Litigators have long complained that lawsuits launched against polluters have been routinely rejected or even ignored by local courts, many of which lack the capacity and the independence to take on powerful government-backed firms.

China has promised to create legal channels allowing members of the public to take action against firms that break the law, but environmental officials say they lack resources and are already overwhelmed by the number of cases.

 

Earlier this year, China passed amendments to its 1989 Environmental Protection Law, giving local governments greater powers to fine, shut down and even imprison violators.

via China supreme court appoints top environmental judge | Reuters.

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