Tue, Nov 21, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Wrongful verdicts a result of torture: Chinese official

AFP , BEIJING

Nearly every person in China who has been wrongfully convicted of a crime in recent years was first tortured to extract a confession, a senior justice official said in the state press yesterday.

By official count, at least 30 people were convicted of crimes they did not commit after being tortured, although the number was likely to be higher, Xinhua news agency quoted China's deputy chief prosecutor, Wang Zhenchuan (王振川), as saying.

"Nearly every wrongful verdict in recent years has involved illegal interrogation," Wang told a justice seminar on Sunday, Xinhua said.

As part of a campaign to eradicate torture that was launched in March, all interrogations of major crimes are to be recorded on video and audio tape, Xinhua said.

Wang's comments came after China denied accusations by the UN's Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, following his visit in December last year, that torture was still widely practiced across the country.

"Torture is on the decline but it is still widespread," Nowak said at the end of his trip.

Torture methods cited by Nowak included the use of electric shock batons, cigarette burns, submersion in pits of water or sewage and exposure to conditions of extreme heat or cold.

Following the release of his full report, Nowak said in March that a major concern about China's justice system was it was largely based on obtaining confessions, especially in rural areas and for political prisoners.

"The major reason for torture and ill treatment remains the old system, with a lot of pressure on the police to extract confessions," he said. "My particular concern is the strong interest of the system that people finally admit guilt."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) said last December that China could not accept Nowak's findings, saying he had "jumped to conclusions" after visiting only three cities over two weeks.

"This is short of facts and factual grounds and this does not conform to the reality, so we ... hope he can correct this wrong conclusion," Qin said.

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