Arrest procedure in corruption cases reformed

A regulation reforming arrest procedure in cases of corruption has become effective on September 1 (#1) in response to instructions laid out by the Central Political-Legal Commission (#2).

Under the old procedure, the arrest of suspects in corruption cases could be approved 批准 or decided 决定 by procuracies below the province level. Under the new procedure, only province level procuracies enjoy the power to issue arrest warrants.

Preparations for the reform began in April this year (#3), with local procuracies filing reports on their status to people’s congresses (see par. 6, this document) and party committees.

Commentaries by the SPC, prosecutors, and legal scholars point out that the rationale of the new procedure is strengthening the supervision mechanisms in cases of corruption. Centralizing the power to approve arrests is necessary to avoid interferences in investigations by the local leadership.

Another possible consequence could be an increase in procuracies’ workload. While the time limits for approving arrest have stayed the same, prosecutors will have to cope with an higher number of cases. To keep the quality of prosecutors’ work, more personnel will have to be hired.
This is just part of the picture.
Here’s some more thoughts about it
.

At risk of being repetitive – the main role in investigating corruption is played by Commissions for Discipline Inspection. This reform is all the more interesting because now

the approval procedure of arrest takes place at the provincial level

as

the approval procedure of
shuanggui does (#4)

Is it a mere coincidence or a well though out choice? Perhaps we’ll never know, but in the meantime the reform can strengthen CDIs, and reduce potential opposition by procuracies.

A potential for tension between CDIs and procuracies existed until very recently. Imagine that a provincial CDI detains a suspect under shuanggui, and then instructs a local procuracy to arrest him.

Local procuracies can (well, could) find several legal grounds to refuse to issue an arrest warrant, flout the power of the CDI, and show their loyalty to local party and state officials. So organized corruption could go more or less on undisturbed within a locality. In fact the biggest corruption scandals have been investigated by ad hoc task forces involving organs at the provincial (and central) level. Using task forces was necessary to break up networks of complicity.

Now, these and similar clashes are not possible anymore. Officials staffing the province level CDI and the province level procuracy belong to the same party committe. They are ‘accountable’ to the same leader, and should follow the same investigation plan 侦查方案.

Relevant documents

# 1. 最高人民检察院关于省级以下人民检察院立案侦查的案件由上一级人民检察院审查决定逮捕的规定(试行) This document is not available online, but a summary is available here and here.
# 2. 中央政法委员会关于深化改革司法体制和工作机制改革若干问题的意见. This document was issued in late December 2008. Its full text is not available online, but a summary has been published in January by Liaowang.

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–># 3. 最高人民检察院关于为职务犯罪案件审查逮捕上提一级改革做好准备工作的通知. Issued in April 2009, and not available online.
# 4. In cases at the prefecture level 地.

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