Camera recordings protect rights of China's corruption suspects

Camera recordings protect rights of China's corruption suspects

Dealing with a growing number of cases amid China's anti-corruption campaign, Shanghai prosecutors are making every effort to ensure that "justice is not only done but is seen to be done".

In a recent report delivered to Shanghai's legislators, Chen Xu, the city's chief procurator, said the number of bribery and corruption cases filed in the first half of 2014 grew by 12 per cent year-on-year.

From January 2013 to June 2014, the prosecutor handled 512 duty crime cases involving 643 people, 18 of whom were county level or higher officials.

Wu Sheng, deputy director general of the Shanghai People's Procuratorate's Bureau for Combating Embezzlement and Bribery, said his colleagues have been working more overtime than ever this year.

It's not only the larger number of cases, but also the new interrogation regulations that are adding to prosecutors' workloads. Interrogations must now be done in front of a camera to guarantee their legitimacy.

Since January 2013, under the new criminal law, the entire interrogation process must be recorded in criminal cases that may involve life imprisonment or the death penalty.

The measure was adopted to protect suspects from torture, but Wu said the tapes have also served as an effective tool in collecting evidence and have prevented suspects from retracting their testimony.

"An upgrade in the anti-corruption storm does not conflict with improvement in human rights protection," Wu said, explaining that suspects' rights have been well-protected by the required recordings.

As of June, more than 3,000 interrogations have been conducted with synchronous sound and video recording, filling more than 6,000 disks. In Shanghai's Baoshan District Procuratorate, each interrogation room has two cameras installed opposite each other, along with a bed on which a suspect can sleep. The walls are padded to prevent suspects from hurting themselves.

Interrogation in front of a camera has challenged prosecutors' ability to obtain verbal confessions, said Wu. "We must now collect enough evidence before going into interrogation," he said.

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