Chinese courts urged to be prudent in use of death penalty

BEIJING — Chinese courts were told on Tuesday to pronounce a two-year suspension of execution for condemned criminals if an immediate execution is not deemed necessary.

The Supreme People’s Court (SPC) said, in an annual report of the work of people’s courts, that death penalty should only be applied to “a very small number” of criminals who have committed “extremely serious crimes.”

Under the a policy of “justice tempered with mercy,” capital punishment reprieves should be granted as long as they are allowed by law, the supreme court said.

The people’s courts have shown respect, in the use of death penalty, for the right to life, which is the most basic human rights, the report said.

The Chinese legislature amended the Criminal Law in February to reduce the number of crimes punishable by death by 13 to 55, for the first time since the Criminal Law took effect in 1979.

The amendment is considered another move by China to limit the use of the death penalty, following a decision in 2007 that all verdicts involving a capital punishment should be reviewed and approved by the Supreme People’s Court.

The supreme court has overturned 10 percent of all death sentences nationwide since 2007 when it took back the right of final review from lower courts.

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