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9.27.2007

Offenders on death row allowed a last meeting with their relatives

Jiangsu province has adopted experimental measures that allow offenders on death row to meet their relatives for the last time. (死刑罪犯会见近亲属工作实施办法(试行)).

A 1998 Explanation of the Supreme People's Court on "Some problems in the implementation of the Criminal Procedure Law" states that a last meeting can be requested either by the inmate or by his close relatives, and that courts can allow (可以准许) the meeting to take place. Given the wording of the Explanation (art. 343), the courts enjoy ample discretionality on whether to allow the meeting or not.

As a result, offenders on death row cannot always see their relatives before the execution.

In March this year, however, the Supreme People's Court ruled that lower level Courts must (应当) allow offenders to see their relatives for the last time. (See Article 45 of the "Opinion on judging death penalty cases according to the law, and guaranteeing their quality" 关于进一步严格依法办案确保办理死刑案件质量的意见 )

The provisions of article 45 were applied first by Guangdong, Shandong and Sichuan provinces, where high Courts issued documents asking lower level courts to comply with the "Opinion".

Mainland Chinese media have reported that not all localities comply with these provisions yet.