[JURIST] The Supreme Court of China and the country's Ministry of Justice [official websites] have released new rules to clarify China's death penalty review procedures, state media reported Friday. Under the new system, three Supreme Court judges must review all death sentences imposed by local courts. The rules also contain provisions meant to ensure that criminal defendants facing possible death penalty convictions receive adequate counsel: courts must promptly inform defense lawyers of prosecution filings, and judges are required to "earnestly listen" to lawyers' complaints and concerns. Xinhua has more.
Last July, the Supreme Court of China announced plans [JURIST report] to standardize guidelines for imposing the death penalty, to strengthen its precedential value, and to increase oversight over intermediate and lower courts. In June 2007, China Daily reported that the number of death sentences handed down by Chinese courts in the first five months of 2007 had decreased [JURIST report] following the implementation of reforms [JURIST report] that required the Supreme People's Court to approve all death sentences. In October 2006, China's National People's Congress [official website] voted to amend the Organic Law on the People's Court [text; JURIST report] after the high court said [JURIST report] it wanted to restrict the authority of lower courts to review death sentences [JURIST report].