The CPL revision and the sovereign exception

I won’t elaborate too much on what the revision to the Criminal Procedure Law means. As I already said, the overhaul consolidates existing rules and regulations without breaking any truly new ground. The fact itself has important implications for  legal reform. But this and similar problems are better left to scholarly articles.

Since the draft amendments of the CPL were published last year, there has been much controversy around articles on ´secret´ arrest, ´secret´ detention and ´secret´ residential surveillance.

None of these are new either. Of course, including these measures in the CPL will increase their legitimacy. But, exceptions to notification requirements existed in the 1996 CPL already, and in the 1980 CPL too. So what has changed since today?

Here’s what the police can do, should they decide to adopt coercive measures which restrict your personal freedom. If you are suspected of terrorism, crimes against state security or grave crimes of corruption you:

  • can be detained for up to 37 days, and detention won’t be notified to your family, if the police believes that doing so would obstruct investigation. What does or doesn’t obstruct investigation is not in you power to decide. You have no means to challenge this form of detention, because it is an investigative measure. And investigative measures can’t be challenged.
  • can be placed under residential surveillance. This doesn’t mean you will spend an entire six months at home. No. You will be detained at a “designated place”. The “designated place” is not a detention centre. Neither it is a police station. The designated place may be an investigation facility as  THIS one. Your family will be notified of your detention. But, they will only know you have been detained. No one will tell them why you have been detained in the first place, or where you are held. Lo and behold, shuanggui has become “more legal”.

I won’t comment on whether restricting the exception is a positive or negative development, because doing so would mean accepting and condoning the very existence of exceptions, as this one down here

(Immigrants held in administrative detention – Italy)

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