"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Friday, December 2, 2016

Nie Shubin: China clears man 21 years after execution

Nie Shubin was killed by firing squad in 1995 at the age of 20
Nie Shubin was killed by firing squad in 1995 at the age of 20 after being
found guilty of killing a woman in Shijiazhuang, in Hebei province.
A Chinese man has had his conviction for rape and murder overturned, 21 years after he was executed.

Nie Shubin was killed by firing squad in 1995 at the age of 20 after being found guilty of killing a woman in Shijiazhuang, in Hebei province.

The supreme court ruled that the facts used in Mr Nie's trial were "unclear and the evidence insufficient".

Mr Nie's family, who have been campaigning for two decades to clear his name, have thanked his supporters.

Eleven years ago another man also said he had carried out the crime but the claim was rejected.

Chinese courts have a conviction rate of more than 99%.

The official number of executions are a state secret, but is believed to be in the thousands every year.

Rights groups allege that confessions used in court are forced or extracted under torture.

It is highly unusual for convictions to be overturned.

In 2014, Huugiilt, a teenager from Inner Mongolia was cleared of rape and murder, 18 years after his execution.

His parents were given 30,000 yuan ($4,850; £3,080) in compensation while 27 officials involved in his trial were later punished.

The BBC's John Sudworth in Beijing says Mr Nie's case is well-known in China.

Rather than a sign of the justice system's ability to right wrongs, many will see his exoneration as exposing continuing flaws and weaknesses in the justice system, he adds.

Source: BBC News, December 2, 2016

China court finds man executed 21 years ago innocent


Nie Shubin and his mother
Nie Shubin and his mother
BEIJING: China's top court on Friday (Dec 2) cleared a man executed 21 years ago for murder - more than a decade after another man confessed to the killing.

The case of Nie Shubin, who was 20 years old when he faced a firing squad in 1995 after being convicted of rape and murder, is the latest miscarriage of justice in the Communist-ruled country.

"The Supreme People's Court believes that the facts used in the original trial were unclear and the evidence insufficient, and so changes the original sentence to one of innocence," it said in a statement on a verified social media account.

Chinese courts have a conviction rate of 99.92 percent, and concerns over wrongful verdicts are fuelled by police reliance on forced confessions and the lack of effective defence in criminal trials.

Overseas rights groups say China executes more people than any other country, but Beijing does not give figures on the death penalty, regarding the statistics as state secrets.

Nie was convicted of raping and murdering a woman whose body was discovered by her father in a corn field on the outskirts of Shijiazhuang city, in the northern province of Hebei. But the time, method and motive for the murder could not be confirmed, and key documents related to witnesses and the defendant's testimony were missing, the supreme court said.

The "primary evidence was that Nie Shubin's confession of guilt corroborated the other evidence", but "there are doubts over the truth and legality of his confession of guilt", the statement added.

Nie's family had been campaigning for justice since a serial murderer arrested in 2005 confessed to the killing. But the case was only formally reopened in 2014.

"Thanks to all those who helped on Nie Shubin's case!" his mother, Zhang Huanzhi, 72, said on social media.

The Hebei high court, which convicted and executed Nie, "expressed deep, deep regrets" to his relatives and would investigate "possible illegal problems related to the trial" soon, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Source: Channel News Asia, December 2, 2016

China Exonerates Man It Executed for Murder in 1995


HONG KONG — China’s Supreme Court on Friday exonerated a man who had been executed for murder in 1995, in a dramatic example of the inequities in the country’s legal system and the authorities’ halting attempts to come to grips with them.

The man, Nie Shubin, was 20 when he was convicted of killing Kang Juhua, a woman who was raped and murdered in the northern province of Hebei in the summer of 1994. The local police arrested Mr. Nie soon after her body was found, and he confessed to the killing after days in detention. He was executed by gunshot in April 1995.

In 2005, Wang Shujin confessed to murdering Ms. Kang.
In 2005, Wang Shujin confessed to murdering Ms. Kang.
In 2005, another man, Wang Shujin, confessed to murdering Ms. Kang. But it took Mr. Nie’s family 11 more years of campaigning to clear his name before the Supreme Court did so on Friday. The court ruled that there had not been enough evidence to convict Mr. Nie and cast doubt on the authenticity of his confession.

Mr. Nie is not the first person to be posthumously exonerated by a Chinese court years after execution, but it is impossible to estimate how many have been wrongly put to death. Even the number of annual executions is a state secret; Amnesty International estimates that it is in the thousands, more than in any other country. They seem to have declined since 2007, after the Supreme Court began reviewing the implementation of the death penalty, the rights group said in a 2015 report.

Under President Xi Jinping, the government has been making efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system, with the overturning of wrongful convictions a key part of that effort. Prosecutors in China almost always secure a conviction, and confessions are often made under duress.

“To some extent, this shows the determination of the central leadership to genuinely address some unjust cases,” William Nee, a researcher for Amnesty International in Hong Kong, said Friday of Mr. Nie’s exoneration. “But the Chinese government also wants to ensure that it is seen by the public as redressing these emblematic cases of injustice, and thereby restore greater legitimacy for its troubled criminal justice system.”

Intentionally or not, that message was conveyed to the public by Nie Xuesheng, Mr. Nie’s father. A video by Pear Video, a news service, showed him wailing when he heard of his son’s exoneration on Friday. He vowed to visit his son’s grave the next day.

But he also added a political statement: “Thank you, President Xi Jinping,” Mr. Nie said. “Your ruling the country by law has brought me huge benefits. I give you a thumbs up.”

The Hebei High Court, which had upheld Mr. Nie’s murder conviction, expressed “sincere apologies” to his parents Friday on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. The court promised to improve and said it would begin the process of awarding compensation to the parents.

Legal experts say that despite some improvements in China’s criminal justice system, the underlying problem is that the system is not independent but controlled by the Communist Party.

Xu Xin, a lawyer and scholar in Beijing who studies capital punishment, said that meant that rulings were often made for political reasons. That was true in Mr. Nie’s case, he said. Part of the reason for the 11-year delay between Mr. Wang’s confession and Mr. Nie’s exoneration was resistance from the local police and prosecutors who handled the original case, Mr. Xu said.

“Those who have caused unjust cases do not want to redress them,” said Mr. Xu, who for years posted frequent messages on social media asking for Mr. Nie’s case to be reopened. “There still isn’t an independent judicial system. If we don’t have such a system, it is still difficult to avoid such cases.”

In addition, prosecutors wield enormous influence over the courts. Nationally, the conviction rate was more than 99.9 percent last year, drawing international condemnation.

Wrongful convictions are made more likely by periodic anti-crime drives, or “strike hard” campaigns. Mr. Nie was convicted and executed in the midst of one such campaign. Another is underway now in the far western region of Xinjiang, where thousands have been arrested in an attempt to tamp down unrest among Uighurs, an ethnic minority that calls the region home.

Huugjilt was only 18 at the time of his execution in 1996
Huugjilt was only 18 at the time of his execution in 1996.
Another exoneration of a man who had been executed years before came in 2014, in Inner Mongolia, a region of northern China. That man, an 18-year-old ethnic Mongolian named Huugjilt, had been put to death for murder in 1996; as in Mr. Nie’s case, another person later confessed to the crime.

Even as the Chinese authorities work to assure people that the courts are becoming more fair, the means for people to publicize injustices and bring them to court are being hobbled by a nationwide crackdown on lawyers who take up the causes of the powerless.

Since July 2015, hundreds of lawyers and rights activists have been swept up in a nationwide dragnet, as Mr. Xi seeks to stamp out a perceived threat to Communist Party rule. The latest known detentions happened just days ago.

“With the crackdown on lawyers and human rights defenders, and new regulations restricting the freedom of expression for lawyers, the government is stifling the type of advocacy that brought about this positive outcome in the Nie Shubin case,” Mr. Nee of Amnesty International said.

Source: The New York Times, December 2, 2016

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