[CHRB] Alleged Torture To Coerce Confessions in Criminal Gang Case, Violence Against Lawyers (4/17-23/2015)Comments Off on [CHRB] Alleged Torture To Coerce Confessions in Criminal Gang Case, Violence Against Lawyers (4/17-23/2015)
China Human Rights Briefing
April 17-23, 2015
Special Coverage on Torture
Criminal Gang Case in Hunan Rife With Alleged Torture of Defendants, Coerced Confessions & Fabricated Evidence; Lawyers Assaulted
Police allegedly tortured several defendants in a criminal gang case in Hunan Province in order to extract confessions, which prosecutors then used as evidence against them at trial, according to their lawyers. Among 47 total defendants in the case—all accused of being members of a triad led by the Zhou family known as “Zhou clan 118”—at least eight individuals have told their lawyers that they were tortured by police while in detention. The trial opened on March 24 at the Hengyang City Intermediate People’s Court, but proceedings were suspended this week after several defense lawyers were physically attacked outside the courthouse. Quite possibly, the assault was reprisal for the lawyers disclosing the fact that Hengyang authorities have continued to prosecute their clients while refusing to investigate the torture claims.
According to defense lawyers working on the case, police in Hengyang indiscriminately detained more than 100 individuals in October 2012, including both suspects and witnesses, and extracted confessions from some through torture at the Hengyang County Detention Center. The local public security bureau held a press conference in December 2012, both publicizing details of the case and predisposing the suspects’ guilt. The defendants on trial are accused of more than 20 crimes in total, including “murder,” “intentional injury,” “drug trafficking,” “looting,” “gathering a crowd to brawl,” and “illegal possession of ammunition.”
The Hengyang City People’s Procuratorate did not conduct any investigation after suspects retracted their confessions and alleged torture, and instead approved their arrests and indicted them. According to the lawyers, it is clear that their clients will not receive a fair trial, and the lack of investigation into the torture allegations and ongoing prosecution of the case constitute a serious miscarriage of justice.
Defendants Jiang Ronghua (蒋荣华) and Zhou Yougen (周友根) have described in court some of the torture they allege to have suffered. Jiang Ronghua said he was hung from a ceiling and repeatedly beaten and had a dirty toilet brush shoved violently into his mouth. He revealed that he tried to commit suicide on at least two occasions, but that police refused to take him to the hospital after these attempts. Zhou Yougen said his hands were shackled and that he was hung from a window and beaten. Both men said police told them to write out a confession after these incidents. Another defendant, Jiang Fanglin (蒋方林), suffered from a stomach hemorrhage for two days in detention before receiving medical treatment.
Jiang Ronghua testified in court that police turned off video cameras while questioning him, apparently so they could threaten him to sign the interrogation records without any evidence of coercion being recorded. During court proceedings, a judge repeatedly tried to block Jiang’s testimony and prevent his lawyer, You Feizhu (游飞翥), from questioning his client.
Other defendants have told their lawyers of police torture and intimidation meant to break them down and confess to crimes. Defendant Liu Peng (刘鹏) said that police beat him, handcuffed him to a chair, and kicked him. Police also reportedly beat Zhou Wenhui (周文辉), smothered his face with a towel, and handcuffed him to a window at night. Police shackled Zhou Wuwen (周武文) for so long that he was left with deformities to his wrists.
On April 21, a dozen or so unidentified men attacked defense lawyers Liu Jinbin (刘金滨), Wang Fu (王甫), and Zhang Lei (张磊) outside the Hengyang court, an incident that brought the trial proceedings to a temporary halt. The three lawyers were grabbed, pushed, and beaten. The attackers tore their clothes off and they suffered minor injuries. The attack came as yet another serious incident of violence against lawyers in China this month (see last week’s report). Police and court bailiffs were slow to arrive at the scene and reportedly did nothing to stop the attack. The assault was perhaps in retaliation for an open letter released on April 12 by nine defense attorneys on the case that made public the accusations of police torture and tainted evidence against their clients. The lawyers’ letter was issued in response to Hengyang City authorities’ refusal to look into the accusations of torture and hold any perpetrators criminally accountable.
In this case in Hengyang, authorities are in violation of both domestic and international law in admitting the coerced evidence into trial and for not investigating the torture allegations. China’s amended Criminal Procedure Law (CPL 2012) excludes evidence obtained from torture (Article 54) from all stages of a criminal investigation, and the procuratorate is legally obliged to investigate torture allegations and pursue criminal liability (Article 55). In addition, the CPL states that the procuratorate must prove the legality of the gathering of evidence, including requiring police to appear in court to prove there was no torture (Article 57). China has an obligation under international law to investigate all allegations of torture, as a state party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This fall, the UN Committee against Torture will review the Chinese government’s implementation of this treaty.
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 “Defense Lawyers in Hengyang, Hunan Gang Case Attacked Outside Court Entrance (Attachments: Background on Hengyang, Hunan ‘Zhou Family’ 1.18 Criminal Gang Case” (湖南衡阳涉黑案辩护律师法院门口遭羞辱殴打 (附：湖南衡阳“周氏家族”1.18涉黑案背景)), April 21, 2015, Rights Defense Network (RDN); “Many Rights Lawyers Attacked by Mob Outside Hengyang Intermediate People’s Court, Police Late in Arriving” (多名维权律师在衡阳中院遭群殴 警方迟迟不出警), April 21, 2015, Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch; “Chinese Lawyers’ Statement on Humiliating Attack on Defense Lawyers in Hengyang Gang Case at Courthouse Gate” (中国律师关于衡阳涉黑案辩护律师法院门口遭羞辱殴打的声明), April 21, 2015, RDN; “Lawyer You Feizhu: Shocking Torture in Jiang Ronghua Case” (游飞翥律师：蒋荣华案骇人听闻的酷刑), April 17, 2015, RDN; “Reply to Zhou Ze and 9 Lawyers’ Open Letter” (对周泽等9名律师公开信的回复), April 16, 2015, Government Blog of Hengyang City Internet News Propaganda Administrative Office; “Open Letter to CCP Hunan Provincial Committee and Secretary Xu Shousheng” (就衡阳“1·18”案致中共湖南省委并徐守盛书记的公开信), April 12, 2015, caijing.com; “Hengyang ‘1.18’ Major Criminal Case Trial Begins” (衡阳“1.18”特大涉黑案开庭), March 26, 2015, Case Information Disclosure of the People’s Procuratorate of P.R. China; “Hengyang Uncovers Major Evil Criminal Plot” (衡阳侦破一特大涉黑涉恶案), December 6, 2012, Hunan Daily.