Saturday, 25 November 2006

Viet Nam death penalty "not deterring drugs"

A Vietnamese parliamentary commission has admitted the death penalty is failing to deter drug crime, despite the large number of people executed for drug-related offences each year.

Thanh Nien News reported on 3 November that the National Assembly's Legal Commission also favoured reducing the number of crimes that attract the death penalty.

Legal Commission vice director Tran The Vuong said it acknowledged the deterrent effect of the death penalty was "not so significant".

"Though there have been a lot of death sentences for drug-related offenses, the number of drug criminals has increased," Tran The Vuong said on the fringes of the assembly's winter session.

"It would be more effective to discover and punish ringleaders," Tran The Vuong said.

According to the report by Thanh Nien News, about 100 people are executed by firing squad each year, most for drug-related offences.

The report said many people executed for drug offences were merely couriers who transported drugs because of their situation or in ignorance of the law.

Tran The Vuong said the commission favoured a reduction in the number of crimes carrying the death penalty, although he would not specify which crimes would remain capital offences.

"It is a major issue that needs thorough study," he said.

Proposed changes
Viet Nam amended its Criminal Code in 2000, reducing the number of capital offences from 44 to 29.

It was reported in February 2006 that the Ministry of Public Security proposed a further reduction from 29 to 20 offences.

A spokesperson for the judicial department of the Ministry of Public Security said a reduction would be "in tune with the general tendency around the world, which Vietnam should follow".

Amnesty International said the proposal, which was submitted to the judicial reform commission for consideration, "reportedly recommends that economic crimes such as fraud and embezzlement, smuggling, counterfeiting and bribery should no longer be capital offences".

Viet Nam has continued to sentence people to death for non-violent economic crimes, despite the view of UN human rights experts that "the death penalty should be eliminated for crimes such as economic crimes and drug-related offences".

In February 2006, state media reported on proposals to change the method of execution, replacing firing squads with lethal injection.

A Police Ministry study reportedly said lethal injection would "minimise the psychological difficulties for executioners".

Related stories:
Another Australian spared in Viet Nam – 19 November, 2006
Viet Nam: Take action against the death penalty -- 24 June, 2006
Viet Nam easing the executioner's burden -- 26 February, 2006
To begin, good news in Viet Nam -- 18 February, 2006

death penalty, deterrence, drug trade, drugs, human rights, Viet Nam, Vietnam

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