It is desirable to reduce range ambiguities in treatment planning for making full use of the major advantage of heavy-ion radiotherapy, that is, good dose localization. A range verification system using positron emitting beams has been developed to verify the ranges in patients directly. The performance of the system was evaluated in beam experiments to confirm the designed properties. It was shown that a 10C beam could be used as a probing beam for range verification when measuring beam properties. Parametric measurements indicated the beam size and the momentum acceptance and the target volume did not influence range verification significantly. It was found that the range could be measured within an analysis uncertainty of +/-0.3 mm under the condition of 2.7 x 10(5) particle irradiation, corresponding to a peak dose of 96 mGyE (gray-equivalent dose), in a 150 mm diameter spherical polymethyl methacrylate phantom which simulated a human head.