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China high court puts new limits on capital sentences

[JURIST] China's Supreme People's Court [official website] handed down anticipated new guidelines [JURIST report] for capital punishment [JURIST news archive] cases Thursday, saying that swift executions should only be imposed on people who have committed heinous crimes, with "ironclad evidence that result in serious social damage." In less serious capital punishment cases, the court said convicted persons should be given a two-year reprieve with the possibility of commuting the sentence to life in prison upon good behavior. The court added that crimes of passion and white collar crimes should not automatically receive death sentences, and offenders who help recover damages for family members of victims or money related to white collar crimes should receive lighter penalties. AP has more. Xinhua has local coverage.

The order is part of an ongoing effort by the the court to drastically reduce the number of executions in China [JURIST report], a country that reportedly executes more citizens [JURIST news archive] than all other countries combined. In response to wrongful convictions and international criticism, China implemented reforms [JURIST report] at the beginning of this year requiring that all death sentences be approved [JURIST report] by the high court. High court vice-president Jiang Xingchang [official profile] was recently quoted as saying that fewer people were sentenced to death in 2006 [JURIST report] than at any point in the previous decade, and that the reforms have extended the declining numbers into 2007.

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