China failing to curb forced confessions

2015-05-13 09:48

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Hong Kong - Criminal suspects in China continue to be tortured for confessions, despite measures by the government to curb the practice, said a report by a human rights group published on Wednesday.

"Police are expected to produce a confession," said Sophie Richardson, the China director of Human Rights Watch, a NGO headquartered in New York.

Despite a mandate to videotape interrogations and other measures to stop forced confessions, dozens of suspects interviewed in the report said they were convicted on statements made under duress.

Former police officers interviewed admitted the practice is commonplace and officers are rarely, if ever, punished for it.

However, in only 23 out 158 000 cases recently made public was evidence thrown out based on torture claims, the report said.

Series of high-profile cases

The database is likely incomplete said Richardson at a briefing in Hong Kong, with no cases of torture being recorded in verdicts from Tibet.

The Chinese government has not responded to the report's findings.

In recent years, there have been a series of high-profile cases where people who made forced confessions after being tortured were exonerated after years of detention, and even after execution.

Prosecutors in China rely heavily on confessions rather than evidence, Richardson said. China has a 99.9% conviction rate. In 2013, just 825 out of an estimated 1 160 000 defendants were acquitted, said the report.

"If [the Chinese government] are serious about curbing police abuse, there's still a long way to go," said Richardson.

She also said defendants should be allowed to have a lawyer present during their interrogation. An estimated 70% to 90% of suspects have no access to lawyers, the researchers said.

The United Nations is set to review China's performance under the Convention Against Torture at the end of the year.

Read more on:    un  |  human rights watch  |  china

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