Wednesday, March 14, 2012

China’s New Law on Detentions Puts Spotlight on ‘Black Jails’

From The New York Times:

March 13, 2012, 4:32 PM

China’s New Law on Detentions Puts Spotlight on ‘Black Jails’

China’s highest legislative body is expected to approve changes on Wednesday for dealing with accused criminals that the government says will protect suspects’ rights and activists worry enshrine a loophole that would legalize secret detentions for many political dissidents.
The official China Daily described the proposed changes as “aimed at further protecting the rights of suspects in custody and preventing forced confessions.”
The revised law no longer includes an explicit provision allowing for secret detention of up to six months, known to critics as “the disappearance clause,” which appeared in an earlier draft of the measure released in September but was removed after a comment period that included more than 80,000 responses, The New York Times reported.
According to the Chinese state-run report this week:
Wang Zhaoguo, a senior lawmaker, explained to deputies on Monday that the draft now states that public security bureaus must inform a suspect’s family within 24 hours of their detention.
The only exceptions, he added, would be when the case is “related to State security or terrorism,” or if informing the family would “impede an investigation”
That appeared to many activists to be a wide loophole for Chinese authorities, who have used charges of subversion to silence challenges to the state from political dissidents.
“I think this shows the present political mentality of lack of confidence and of fear,” the dissident artist, Ai Weiwei, who was himself detained secretly last year, told Reuters last week. “This is a massive threat to the judicial system and to citizens’ security.”
Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher on Asia at Human Rights Watch, translated a message posted to Twitter on Tuesday by one of China’s best known activists.

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