Justice delayed is justice denied and in certain cases, the damage becomes irreversible. A man in China was exonerated 21 years after his execution. China’s Supreme Court on Friday acquitted Nie Shubin from charges of rape and murder, for which he was awarded capital punishment and, thereby, executed in 1995.
Convicted for rape and murder of a woman in Shijiazhuang in Hebel province, Nie Shubin was killed by a firing squad in 1995 at the age of 20.
Ten years later, another man named Wang Shujin confessed to the crime in 2005, but the claim was rejected. In 2014, the courts decided to review the case and declared that Nie was innocent.
The Supreme Court ruled that the evidence, which led to conviction of Nie, was ‘insufficient’ and the trial ‘unclear’. It was also held that possibility of other suspects cannot be excluded.
Judges ruled that Nie's original trial didn't "obtain enough objective evidence", saying there were serious doubts about the time of death, murder weapon and cause of death. Doubts were also raised on the legality and veracity of Nie’s confession.
Though too late, the verdict was welcomed by his family. His mother had tirelessly struggled to clear her son’s name and restore his honour, and found allies in local media and campaigners. "I'll visit his grave soon to tell him that mom's efforts all these years weren't in vain -- and justice will prevail in your case," she said.
As per a CNN report, Nie’s trial was done behind closed doors and his parents were barred from the court room. A lawyers hired by his family also alleged that he was beaten into confession. Seven months after his detention, Nie was executed without informing his family.
Rather than being a sign of triumph of justice, the verdict is being received by many as a veritable display of deep seated flaws and weaknesses of China’s criminal justice system. According to Amnesty International, China is world’s most prolific executioner. However, overturning of verdict is rare in the country and the move clearly displays a step in the right direction.
“The overturning of the original verdict is a very positive move, and shows how some within the Chinese government — especially the court — are willing to correct historic injustices,” AI researcher William Nee said.
“However, this case also illustrates that the death penalty as currently applied in China is still flawed and prone to mistakes. The only way to truly ensure that tragic cases like Nie Shubin don’t recur is to stop tinkering with the machinery of death, and abolish the death penalty,” he said.
This article has been made possible because of financial support from Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation.