Torture made a criminal offence

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 July, 2006, 12:00am

Officials will face criminal prosecution if they use torture to extract confessions from suspects or try to cover up mine disasters following the addition yesterday of dozens of offences to the mainland's list of dereliction-of-duty crimes.

Top prosecutors said the latest addition included about 60 new criteria that would allow prosecutors to press charges. These criteria cover torture of suspects, health officials covering up epidemics and environmental officials failing to prevent mass poisonings.

Eight criteria for the crime of torture were specified, including beating, binding, freezing, starving, exposing suspects to severe weather, severely injuring suspects and directly or indirectly ordering others to use torture.

Xinhua said previous regulations already prohibited officers from using 'brutal means' to extract confessions, but there were no guidelines on what that constituted or what amounted to 'serious results' from torture.

The additions bring the total number of dereliction-of-duty crimes to more than 220 and are part of a central government attempt to curb occupational misconduct by public servants.

Wang Zhenchuan , deputy procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, said the changes were made to bring the list into line with new laws and regulations.

'Some articles of the old regulation were too broad and not specific, so some crimes could not be targeted effectively. Amending it had become an urgent judicial need,' Mr Wang said.

Outspoken Beijing-based lawyer Zhang Xingshui said the amendment showed prosecutors were determined to crack down on crime by officials.

'Derelictions of duty and abuses of power are eroding government administration,' he said.