BEIJING, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- Authorities have issued China's first guideline for preventing incorrect judgments following multiple court scandals.
Issued by the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on its website, the guideline reiterates several legal principles, including those preventing punishment for people whose guilt can not be absolutely established and those stipulating that judges, procurators and police officers will bear a "life-long responsibility" for their roles in wrongful judgments.
Chen Weidong, a professor at the Law School of Renmin University, said recent scandals have brought unprecedented challenges to the court system.
"Compared with correcting miscarriages of justice, it's more pressing and important to work out preventive measures," Chen said.
The guideline stresses that for cases in which there is not enough evidence to prove a suspect's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the court should reserve punishment and pronounce defendants not guilty rather than issue judgments based on insufficient evidence.
"The provision did not come easily. It is the result of decades of experience and lessons in judicial practice," Chen said.
The guideline also reiterates articles in the Criminal Procedural Law, which was amended last year, stating that interrogations should be conducted in interrogation rooms in detention houses, with audio or video recordings to be created during the entire interrogation procedure.
When investigative organs transfer a case through the chain of command, all evidence should be transferred, regardless of whether it proves a suspect's guilt or not, the guideline says.
It also urges judicial organs to define standards for unjust and wrongful judgments and establish a mechanism that can allow authorities to pursue those who are genuinely guilty in such cases.
The guideline came in response to increased public calls for judicial fairness after the emergence of several wrongful judgments.
Zhang Hui and his uncle Zhang Gaoping, both residents of east China's Zhejiang Province, were sentenced to death and life in prison, respectively, by the Hangzhou Municipal Intermediate People's Court on April 21, 2004 for allegedly raping a 17-year-old girl.
Their sentences were later commuted to a death sentence with a two-year reprieve for Zhang Hui and a 15-year prison term for Zhang Gaoping during a second trial conducted by the Higher People's Court of Zhejiang on Oct. 19, 2004.
The Higher People's Court acquitted the two of rape on March 26 this year after a retrial found insufficient evidence to support their convictions.
"Regardless of whether they are in service, retired or having already left the police force, those whose actions resulted in unfair or wrongful judgments must be held accountable," said Liu Liwei, head of the Zhejiang Provincial Public Security Department.
Asking judges, procurators and police officers to bear "life-long responsibility" for their roles in wrongful judgments will make them more meticulous when seeking proof, Chen said.
Zhao Bingzhi, a legal expert at Beijing Normal University, said the guideline is the first of its kind.
"The guideline is of strong pertinence, as it summarizes problems found during the correction of wrongful judgments in recent years," Zhao said.
Although the guideline is intended to reaffirm previously created provisions, some of its wording is completely new, according to the professor.
The guideline criticizes the blind pursuit of "quotas" as part of judicial practices, adding that a scientific performance appraisal system must be established.
"China's unreasonable appraisal mechanism for handling criminal cases is a major cause of unjust and wrongful judgments," Zhao said.
"The guideline may serve as an effective preventive measure if it is carried out properly," Zhao added.