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Amendments to China's Criminal Procedure Law

Amendments to Criminal Procedure Law Likely

China is considering revising its Criminal Procedure Law to pave way for ratification of a United Nations civil and political rights convention, a gesture hailed by a law expert on Wednesday as "one more step towards judicial justice."

Long Zongzhi, a law professor with China's Southwest University of Political Science and Law, said that China has laid the groundwork for ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by putting the amendment of the Criminal Procedure Law high on its agenda.

China signed two international conventions on human rights - the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - in 1997 and 1998 respectively. The former was ratified by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, in 2001 after China joined the World Trade Organization.

The latter, a major part of which concerns criminal procedure law such as international standards on fair trials and the review of death sentences, remains to be ratified because certain articles in the existing Criminal Procedure Law are not in line with the covenant's provisions.

"China's ratification of the two conventions would mean it is further opening up economically and socially, and respects basic law norms concerning human rights in the judicial field set up by the UN, and lists them as standards for domestic judicial practices," Long said.

The proposal to amend China's Criminal Procedure Law was accepted by the NPC last year, which plans to initiate the revision process either this year or next.

According to Long, several problems related to the law and its implementation need to be addressed, such as further adjustment of the basic structure of litigation, strengthening judicial restraint and human rights protection, reforming modes of trial, and modifying procedures for investigation, prosecution and trial.

"Law reform is a process. It should be carried out step by step and in stages if China is to build a modern litigation system," Long added.

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