Police torture a sackable offence, new law says

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 May, 2010, 12:00am

Police officers using torture to force confessions, or instigating others to do so, will be sacked, according to new mainland disciplinary regulations released this week.

That was one of the highlights of the regulations, as authorities for the first time made public some details of their internal disciplines in response to public complaints about irregularities in the past few years.

The regulations will take effect from next month.

The list indicates nearly 50 circumstances under which police will or might be sacked.

The previous version of prohibitions aimed at police irregularities, issued in 2003, listed only five.

The five must-be-sacked situations are: fleeing the country or overstaying an overseas visit; being involved in crimes that might harm state security; being involved in crimes related to underground gangs; tipping off criminals; and illegally helping people entering or exiting the country.

Regarding the use of torture to obtain confessions, the regulation has the phrase 'and cause serious consequences' but does not elaborate on what the 'serious consequences' are. About a dozen cases in which police or security guards may have used torture to force confessions and caused the deaths of the suspects have been reported in recent years.

In the latest case, four officers in Lushan county, Henan, were arrested in February for allegedly torturing a suspect to death. The director of Lushan's Public Security Bureau was asked to resign, and one of his deputies was dismissed.

Deng Jianwei, chief of public relations for the Guangdong Public Security Department, said that they already had similar internal regulations.

Lawyers and legal scholars generally welcomed the new regulations, saying that with the details provided by the regulations, the public would have more opportunities to monitor police behaviour.

Tang Jingling, a Guangzhou-based rights lawyer, said: 'I think it's progress of a sort because now the public can easily know when to complain about police injustice by looking at the regulations.'

He cited one of the new rules, which will cause police who illegally release suspects on bail for medical treatment to be sacked.

But Tang was worried that the new regulations addressed only severe cases of torture. 'So the key to guarantee all people's safety, including suspects and prisoners, is to make the mainland's law-and-order system more transparent,' he said.

'The media should be given more space to cover different internal sectors of the system.'

Beijing-based rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang agreed. 'The new rules are an improvement in the literal sense. But we already have many beautiful laws; the problem is how to enforce them.'