Capital Punishment Suspended for Domestic Violence Victim Who Killed Husband

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Originally published by Latin American Herald Tribune on May 1, 2015

BEIJING – A Chinese court on Friday gave a suspended death sentence, which can be transmuted to a life sentence if the prisoner shows good conduct, to Li Yan, a domestic violence victim who killed her husband.

Since her arrest, Li has become a symbol of women’s struggle with domestic violence.

Li was sentenced to death in 2013 but a year later, after a campaign led by 400 lawyers and activists in China, her sentence was revoked by the Supreme Court and a fresh trial ordered.

At the retrial in Anyue County, Sichuan province, the court also sentenced Li to death, but suspended execution for two years, implying that if Li shows good conduct in prison, her death penalty would be commuted to life, her lawyer Wang told Chinese Human Rights Defenders, CHRD.

“It’s a double tragedy that Li has been sentenced to death for a second time. Protection of women, especially victims of domestic violence, should have been guaranteed at least three decades ago when China ratified CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) in 1980,” CHRDinvestigator Wendy Lin told Efe.

After repeatedly suffering domestic abuse and having tried to report her husband on several occasions, Li, 44, killed him in a fight in November 2010.

Realizing she had killed her husband, she tried to do away with the body by dismembering it.

However, she then confessed the crime to a friend she wanted to contact the police.

According to human rights organizations, Li neither abandoned the crime scene nor denied her role in the incident.

Li has become a symbol of the plight of women in a country bereft of laws to protect them from domestic violence.

This situation may soon change as authorities debate the country’s first law on domestic violence which, according to sources, could be approved before the end of the year.

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