China’s chief justice has hailed the decision to return the right of review of all death penalty rulings to the Supreme People’s Court a success six months after the regulation was passed, saying it was “neither too severe nor too lenient”.
On Jan. 1, 2007, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) retrieved the right to review all death penalty decisions made by lower courts, ending its 24-year absence in approving China’s execution verdicts.
“(Since then) executions have been justifiably exercised, the policy has been properly carried out and there has been no social unrest as a result of this matter,” said Chief Justice Xiao Yang when addressing local justices in southern Guangdong province.
“The decrease of the country’s crime rate since January indicates that our efforts to be more careful when handing out the death penalty have yielded good results,” said Xiao.
“As China’s chief justice, I have been so worried (about the legal change) in the six months that all food became unpalatable to me.”
Xiao also called on provincial courts to double-check evidences that are used to hand down death penalty, because it “lays the basis for SPC’s final review.”
“In each case, whenever there is a doubt about whether execution is the appropriate penalty, we should always be ready to drop it,” Xiao added.
Earlier this year, Xiao urged “extreme caution” in handing down death sentences, saying “capital punishment should be given only to an ‘extremely small number’ of serious offenders”.
Figures from the Beijing No 1 and No 2 intermediate people’s courts suggest that, in the first five months of 2007, the number of death sentences dropped 10 percent from last year.