Complaining with Confidence: Detainee Rights Project

This project, named “Complaining with Confidence”, promoted best practice in investigating complaints from prisoners held in detention centres. Funded by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office for 8-months up to March 2013, the project extended an existing GBCC pilot scheme at a detention centre in Wuhu, Anhui province to two further cities in economically contrasting provinces: Wuzhong in Ningxia and Yantai in Shandong. Its objective was to embed better practice in the new detention centre regulations due for promulgation within the following two years.

Detention Centre Detainee Rights3

Key project activities included a series of roundtables with the Procuratorate and Public Security Bureau in Wuzhong and Wuhu, during which the UK PPO and a Dutch professor were shown around three pre-trial detention centres. A study visit to the UK was also conducted for eight Chinese delegates and officials from the Ministry of Public Security, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, and local PSB and Procuratorate officials. Delegates inspected three prisons in and around London and Northern Ireland, and held meetings with the Medical Foundation (which provides counselling and medical services for torture victims), the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman. They were briefed by a forensic psychologist, a custody sergeant and a lay visitor at the Thames Valley Police HQ on custody procedures, health checks on detainees and monitoring of treatment carried out by lay visitors (members of the local community). At the end of their visit, the Director of Detention Centre Management Bureau from the Ministry of Public Security said that allowing detainees to complain is an important way to protect their rights, and demonstrates the protection of human rights, adding that the key to this is changing attitudes in detention centres so staff are not afraid of complaints.

Detention Centre Detainee Rights

The final seminar was organised by GBCC’s Chinese project partner, the Judicial Reform Research Centre at Renmin University of China. This session compared and reviewed experiences and practical lessons learned from the three pilots in Anhui, Ningxia, and Shandong, and made recommendations to the Ministry of Public Security. Over 80 representatives from the Central Politics and Law Commission of the Communist Party of China, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security and top law schools across China gathered in Yinchuan of Ningxia Autonomous Region. Delegates held in-depth discussions on the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2012-2015), its relevance to establishing, advancing and improving detainee complaint handling and custody visiting schemes, as well as detention issues related to the implementation of the revised Criminal Procedure Law.

Detention Centre Detainee Rights2

Officials stated that the pilot schemes had resulted in a rise in the number of complaints. They claimed that numbers of detainees satisfied with the way their complaints were handled was also high. However, comments from academics implied that the ‘independent’ complaints committees had a very limited role in dealing with and handling complaints. Academics made the case for enhancing the decision-making powers of complaints committees, and ensuring representation of local citizens and lawyers. In this way the complaint mechanism could compliment lay visitor initiatives (introduced by GBCC in the course of two EU-funded programmes and now a statutory requirement for Chinese pre-trial detention centres).

Date posted: 05 April 2013

Categories: Criminal Justice

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