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Strengthening South-South Judicial Cooperation to Promote the Development of Global Human Rights
July 13,2018   By:CSHRS

 Strengthening South-South Judicial Cooperation to Promote the Development of Global Human Rights

LI Xiao*

Abstract: Judicial cooperation is one of the significant components of South-South cooperation. Furthermore,in the process of South-South cooperation,the establishment of a fair,rational,and transparent new system of international justice must be jointly promoted. The Chinese judicial authorities have made new progress in deepening judicial reforms,enhancing judicial transparency,improving human rights judicial protection mechanisms and strengthening the construction of smart courts,and have accumulated rich judicial experience. Under the background that many changes and great upheavals are taking place in the international world,countries of the Global South should strengthen their judicial exchanges and cooperation,especially in the field of the judicial protection of human rights. SouthSouth cooperation should be enhanced and they should learn from each other,so they can jointly make contributions to the development of the legal world.

Keywords: South-South cooperation ♦ judicial cooperation and exchanges ♦ judicial reforms ♦ judicial transparency

On January 18,2017,Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech entitled “Work Together to Build a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings” at the United Nations Office at Geneva. He proposed that the international community should work together to build a community with a shared future for human beings to address the problems and challenges of the times. To achieve this goal,he called on the international community to promote partnership,security,growth,inter-civilization exchanges and the building of a sound ecosystem. He said,China's proposition is: Countries should work together to build a community with a shared future for human beings and so achieve shared and win-win development. As both China and other countries of the South countries are developing countries,they face the same problems and challenges in the process of development,therefore South-South cooperation provides an opportunity to work together to cope with common challenges. Besides developing new economic cooperation relationships,sharing China's development opportunities and achieving mutual prosperity,South-South cooperation should also strengthen judicial cooperation by establishing a fair,rational,and transparent new system of international justice and promoting the judicial protection of human rights.

Ⅰ. China's Judicial Reform and Protection of Human Rights

A. Reform the litigation system to strengthen the judicial protection mechanisms for human rights

1. Acce lerate reform of the trial-centered criminal litigation system

In recent years,China has made significant headway in reform of its criminal litigation system. By utilizing modern technology and establishing unified evidence standards and regulations,China is seeking to better combine criminal punishment with human rights protection. In October 2014,the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee released the Decisions of the CPC Central Committee on Major Issues Pertaining to Comprehensively Promoting the Rule of Law,which proposed advancing reform of trial-centered litigation system. On June 27,2016,the 25th Meeting of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms presided over by General Secretary Xi Jinping approved Opinions on Advancing the Reform of Trial-Centered Criminal Litigation System,marking the beginning of the reform of trial-centered criminal litigation system. On July 20,2016,the Supreme People's Court,the Supreme People's Procuratorate,the Ministry of Public Security,the Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of Justice jointly released Guidelines on Advancing the Reform of the Trial-Centered Criminal Litigation System,a significant move to implement the rule of law and ensure judicial justice by introducing new mechanisms for human rights protection. Adhering to principles of legally prescribed punishment,the assumption of innocence,evidence submission and illegal evidence exclusion,the Guidelines make the criminal litigation system trial-centered,promote real trials and improve the supervision mechanism for investigation and litigation,thereby preventing misdeeds including confessions extracted by torture and illegal collection of evidence,and to make the facts of investigated,litigated and decided cases legally convincing. Since the reform of trial-centered criminal litigation system was launched,more investigators,appraisers and witnesses have testified in court,and the rules for the exclusion of illegal evidence have been further implemented; the duty counsel system and legal aid system have been improved to protect the defendant's legal rights including the right to defense.

In recent years,people's courts across the country have taken advantage of the new technological revolution and combined technological innovation of big data with judicial reform. Problems hindering reform of the criminal litigation system have been solved,unified evidence standards have been established,and cross-sector platforms based on big data have been built. The collection and examining of evidence is done legally,comprehensively and to uniform standards,judicial standards have been unified and judicial justice protected. People's courts across the country have freed the innocent from criminal investigation and justly punished criminals,thereby strengthening the punishment of crimes,protecting human rights,and maintaining the harmony and stability of the society.

2. Strictly exclude illegal evidences to improve the mechanism for preventing misjudged cases

On January 7,2014,General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered a speech at the Central Political and Legal Affairs Conference,proposing that we should understand the principle of “one hundred minus one equals zero”,because the negative effective of one mistrial can destroy the positive image built by ninety-nine fair ones. One mistake in ten thousand judicial cases or more can also damage the image of the justice system. On April 18,2017,the 34th Meeting of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms approved the Provisions on Several Issues concerning the Exclusion of Illegal Evidence in Criminal Cases,which was released collectively by the Supreme People's Court,the Supreme People's Procuratorate,the Ministry of Public Security,the Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of Justice. The principle of excluding evidence collected illegally plays an important role in protecting judicial justice,enhancing judicial credibility and strengthening human rights judicial protection. The Provisions propose strengthening efforts to prevent forced confessions,and clarify standards and procedures for the collection and submission of evidence admissible in court. Identifying the case facts through legal evidence and punishing criminals through fair procedures ensures defendants are keenly aware of judicial seriousness and fairness,and make the public feel the sense of safety and fairness brought by adhering to proper judicial procedures. From July 2016 to September 2017,courts at all levels in Shanghai accepted 24 applications for illegal evidence exclusion,initiated the investigation procedure for legal collection of evidence 15 times,and excluded evidence in four case because it had been illegally collected. Booth the Supreme People's Court in Shanghai Municipality and the Supreme People's Court in Guizhou province have formulated guidelines for the collection of evidence,incorporated unified evidence standards based on data and modeling int o the digital criminal trial system,and combined “smart” examination of evidence with judges’ subjective judgments,thereby strictly handling the evidence and case facts according to procedures,and to prevent the “wrong beginning,wrong following and wrong ending” of criminal cases.

Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC,people's courts have legally corrected 39 miscarriages of justice concerning 78 persons,including Huugjilt,Nie Shubin and Chen Man,enhancing the public's confidence in judicial justice. The Supreme People's Court released guidelines on improving the mechanism for preventing misjudged cases to require acquittal for defendants in cases lacking enough evidence for conviction and forbid degraded or disputed judgments. From 2013 to 2017,people's courts acquitted 2,943 defendants in public prosecution cases and 1,931 defendants in private prosecution cases,ensuring the innocent were free of criminal punishment. The correction of miscarriages of justice demonstrates the Supreme People's Court persistently pursues judicial justice and gives high attention to the judicial protection of human rights,and the implementation of legal principles including judgments based on the evidence and the assumption of innocence.

3. Reform of the lighter sentence system for confessions and the speedy criminal trial system

Authorized by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress,reforms of the lighter sentence system for confessions and speedy criminal trial system have been carried out in 18 areas on a pilot basis,including promoting speedy trials for simple cases,simplified trials for difficult cases and the proper severity of punishment; promoting lighter sentences and simpler procedures for defendants that confess to their crimes,especially for minor crimes,and first-time or casual offenders. By the end of September 2017,251 pilot courts concluded 69,000 cases concerning 78,000 suspects who confessed to the crimes they were accused of. These cases accounted for 42.7 percent of criminal cases during this period. Among them,69.7 percent of the cases applied speedy trial procedures,with 41.4 percent handing down non-custodial sentences. These measures have effectively reduced the pre-trial detention for defendants,and entitled them with right to a speedy trial. Adhering to the principles of speedy trials without lowering standards and simplified trials without impairing rights,the pilot courts have enhanced their evidence collection and storage,improved procedures for notifying defendants of their rights,and established a duty counsel system,thereby promoting justice and efficiency at the same time.

4. Improve court rules to strengthen the judicial protection of human rights

In February 2015,the Supreme People's Court and the Ministry of Public Security issued a notice,prescribing that criminal defendants or appellants on trial shall not wear the special clothes worn by detainees and criminals serving their sentences shall not wear prison clothes during their appeal hearings; the detention center shall hand over defendants or appellants wearing formal or casual suits to the people's court when they are to appear in court. In April 2016,the Supreme People's Court again revised the court rules to strengthen the judicial protection of human rights,promote the openness,convenience and civilization of the court,and demonstrate judicial civilization and justice.

Ⅱ. China's Judicial Publicity and Information Construction

A. Comprehensively promote judicial publicity and improve judicial transparency

In the judicial reform,China utilized information tools to establish four information platforms for the judicial process,for trial activities,for judgment documents and for judgment execution,to establish a more open,dynamic,transparent and convenient judicial system. By October 16,2017,China Judicial Process Information Online had disclosed 833,000 pieces of information,with the number of website visits reaching 2.53 million. China Judgments Online opened in July 2013 and had received over 10 billion visits by August 23th,2017,with its users covering 210 countries and regions,making it the biggest online judgment database worldwide. By September 30th,2017,China Judgment Execution Online had disclosed 45.09 million pieces of information on 8.61 million persons subject to execution.

B. Information construction in the courts opens a new chapter in judicial reform

1. Utilize judicial big data to provide technological support for decisionmaking

A judicial big data management and service platform,judicial process management system and a personnel information management system covering courts at four levels have been established to gather trial,execution and personnel information from all over the country ,and to reflect the trial situation,case efficiency and reform progress of all courts across the country. All of the 3,523 courts and 10,759 people's tribunals across the country have access to a private network,for online case handling,record tracking and supervision. Promoting judicial publicity comprehensively has made the people feel the fairness and justice in a visible way,and effectively improved judicial credibility.

People's courts have replaced artificial statistics with real-time updated and interconnected information. Courts in Beijing,Shanghai and Jiangsu have taken advantage of judicial big data to establish a case weighting coefficient and assessment indicator system to determine the workloads of judges to improve the distribution of cases and performance evaluation in a scientific way,thereby to promote targeted reforms.

2. Utilize judicial artificial intelligence to promote reform and innovation

Various smart platforms based on big data,cloud computing and artificial intelligence have been established to improve judicial quality and efficiency. Intelligent-aided systems represented by “Faxin” have been established and applied to provide judges with services including similar case recommendations,word correction and data analysis,thereby to improve judges'  professional proficiency. Courts including Suzhou Intermediate People's Court in Jiangsu Province have applied voice recognition technology to improve the completeness of trial records to nearly 100 percent and reduce the duration of trials by 20 to 30 percent on average.

3. Utilize information platform to improve judicial convenience

Comprehensive litigation service platforms have been established to improve the litigation service mechanism. In all,86 percent of courts across the country have established informationized litigation service centers,over 2,200 courts have launched litigation service websites,and 1,734 courts have set up the hotline (12368). The functions offered include online case filing,online payment,online cross-examination,online trial,online delivery,etc. Promoting practices including one-stop handling of traffic accidents and one-key settlement of claims and establishing online platform of dispute resolution have improved judicial efficiency and convenience. Intelligent robots used by courts in Anhui,Jiangsu and Guangdong and ITC self-service terminal developed by courts in Fujian have achieved “more data processing and less people running”.

4. Establishment of Hangzhou internet court

To implement the spirit of the 36th Meeting of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms,Hangzhou Internet Court,a grass-roots court specialized in handling internet-related disputes,was established in Hangzhou,Zhejiang Province on August 18,2017. Responsible for hearing cases related to the internet in the first instance,this court explores the key to the problem of traditional litigation rules not being applicable in many internet-related cases,safeguards the development of the internet in accordance with the law,and protect the country's sovereignty in cyberspace. Since its establishment,the Hangzhou Internet Court has taken advantage of information technology to realize online evidence collection and speedy dispute resolution and explored a new way of handling internet-related cases.

Ⅲ. Strengthening South-South Judicial Cooperation to Promote the Development of Global Human Rights

Strengthening South-South cooperation not only has a positive effect on the economic and social development of Global South countries,it also has a profound influence on the judicial civilization in countries of the Global South. Strengthening judicial cooperation is conducive to enhancing mutual trust and peace among Global South countries,promoting the development of their economies and legal systems,and benefiting people around the world and the international human rights protection.

A. Promote development through reform and share experience to achieve winwin cooperation

With the development of internationalization,informatization and scientific technology,the international situation as well as social and economic trends of all countries are constantly changing. As developing countries face many problems and tasks in the new era,their judicial system should keep pace with the times and need international cooperation and exchanges to solve problems. This is of great significance for protecting the interests of the people,the society and Global South countries. Countries of the Global South should share their experience and promote the development of new technologies and new international relationships. The judicial authorities of these countries should strengthen judicial cooperation and exchanges in every aspect,especially in the judicial protection of human rights. They should learn from each other,and jointly make contributions to the development of the world's legal systems.

B. Aim for cooperation and achieve mutual development

Nowadays,the international community is undergoing unprecedented changes and countries across the world are becoming more closely related and interdepen dent. In the context of the complex international situation,Global South countries should face various international issues and handle foreign relations properly. In the field of justice,major issues including international judgment recognition and execution,international judicial coordination,a judicial crackdown on terrorist and network crimes,etc. shall be properly addressed. In accordance with the rule of law,Global South countries should carry out international cooperation on a broader basis to solve regional and international issues,especially to crackdown on terrorism and protect human rights.

In recent years,China's courts at all levels have carried out international judicial cooperation and coordination,shared China's good practices in the rule of law and the judicial protection human rights,and given full play to the active role of justice in foreign relations. By the end of 2017,the Supreme People's Court had established friendly relations with the supreme judicial organs of over 140 countries and regions as well as 18 international and regional organizations,and signed cooperation agreements with the supreme judicial organs of 36 countries and two international organizations. These measures helped to strengthen cooperation and exchanges with the International Court of Justice,the supreme courts of other countries and major international organizations including Word Trade Organization,World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Bank.

In recent years,people's courts have also actively participated in international judicial assistance and further improved their proficiency in handling international coordinated judicial cases. For example,participating in the negotiation and formulation of international conventions and rules to improve international judicial assistance system and “Chinese Standards”,and handling foreign-related cases strictly and properly. From 2013 to 2017,courts at all level concluded 75,000 foreign-related civil cases and handled 15,000 cases of international judicial assistance.

In the new era of economic internationalization and regional integration,people's courts are actively demonstrating the achievements made by China in the rule of law and human rights judicial protection by hosting international judicial conferences,including the China-ASEAN Justice Forum (Nanning),the Conference of Presidents of Supreme Courts of China and Central and Eastern European Countries (Suzhou),Silk Road International Forum on Judicial Cooperation (Dunhuang),the Conference of Presidents of Supreme Courts of China and Portuguese-Speaking Countries (Guangzhou). These measures not only expanded China's judicial influence and strengthened China's power of discourse,but made contributions to improve global judicial efficiency,fairness and peace,promote fair global governance,and build a community with a shared future for human beings.

(Translated by LI Weifeng)

* LI Xiao ( 李晓 ),Deputy Inspector and Senior Judge of the Research Office of the Supreme People's Court,Starding Council Member of China Society for Human Rights Studies.

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