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China top court bans use of forced confessions

China's Supreme People's Court [official wesbite, Chinese] issued a ruling on Thursday banning the use of forced confessions extracted through torture. The court reportedly claimed [Reuters report] that "illegal methods" of confession extraction, including food and sleep deprivation and temperature manipulation are unacceptable and amount to torture. Judges have been instructed to rule out confessions obtained through these methods in order to increase judicial transparency and to reduce the number of unfair convictions. This ruling is part of a broad move [Xinhua report] by the Communist Party of China (CPC) to reform the nation's human rights situation. Earlier this month the CPC issued a high-profile reform plan, part of a package of efforts designed to implement substantial reforms in the country's policies. The reforms, among other things, aim to reduce capital punishment convictions, abolish labor re-education camps, and provide legal aid to citizens.

China's relationship with torture has been under heavy scrutiny in recent years. A UN human rights expert in 2005 claimed [JURIST report] that torture in the country was widespread. China subsequently denied those allegations, yet in November of 2006 the country released [JURIST reports] at least 30 citizens it said had been wrongfully convicted through the use of torture in interrogation. The UN Committee Against Torture [official website] condemned [JURIST report] China's use of torture to extract confessions in 2008, despite its official prohibitions of the practice. In 2010, China issued [JURIST report] a ban on the introduction of evidence obtained through torture, but the move did little to alleviate criticisms and allegations of human rights abuses [JURIST backgrounder]. China also faced allegations made by South Korea of torture used against prisoners and detainees in 2012.

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