Death penalty under the spotlight in China

Beijing - China is to revise its law on approving death penalties to prevent human rights violations and miscarriages of justice, state media reported on Wednesday.

Under the reforms, appeals against death sentences would have to be heard by China's high court. The court currently makes its decisions based solely on written reports.

Huang Songyou, vice president of the Supreme People's Court, said the changes to the procedure were on the books of the National People's Congress, China's legislature, Xinhua news agency said.

"China needs to revise the law on a large scale again, because it has signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Political Rights since 1996 and has enshrined a human rights clause into the constitution," Xinhua quoted Huang as saying.

Current laws dictate that all death penalty cases are submitted to China's high court for review and approval, but the court makes its decisions based on written reports instead of hearing the cases.

China executes about 10 000 convicted criminals every year, according to Chinese academics, five times more than all the death penalty cases from other nations combined.

China refused to publicise the exact number executed and regards the judicial killings as a tightly guarded state secret.

Amnesty International has called for a moratorium on the death penalty in China, saying the country's dysfunctional criminal justice system meant many innocent people were being executed. - Sapa-AFP

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