Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Viet Nam: Reduction in death penalty offences?

Viet Nam is considering a further reduction in the number of crimes that attract the death penalty, according to a report last week by China's Xinhua newsagency.

The Vietnam News reportedly said on 15 July that the Ministry of Public Security had proposed the death penalty be removed from 12 offences.

Xinhua's report said the proposal would amend Article 35 of the Criminal Code, which provides for the death penalty.

The changes would limit its use to "only those committing the most heinous crimes and people considered to be a serious danger to the community and the nation's security".

The 12 offences included:
  • appropriating property by fraud
  • smuggling
  • producing and trading fake goods and medical products
  • being involved in producing, storing and circulating counterfeit money, bonds and checks
  • organising the illegal use of drugs
  • hijacking planes or ships
  • corruption
  • taking and giving bribes
  • destroying army weapons or technical equipment
  • being involved in an invasion
  • "anti-human crimes", and
  • war crimes.

Gradual reductions
Human rights campaigners have long urged Viet Nam to reduce the scope of the death penalty.

After increasing the number of capital offences to 44 in 1992, Viet Nam reduced it to 29 offences in July 1999.

In April this year, Amnesty International said there were at least 25 known executions in Viet Nam in 2007, which placed it fourth on the list of the top executioners in the world.

Xinhua said Viet Nam sentenced 116 people to death in 2006 and 95 in 2007.

Dramatic increase but positive signs
In June 2006, an Amnesty International alert said there had been a "dramatic increase in Viet Nam's use of the death penalty, especially for drug-related crimes".

"Concern about the use of the death penalty in Viet Nam is compounded by the routine unfairness of trials that do not conform to international standards," the organisation said.

However, it said there were "some positive signs that the death penalty is being discussed within the Vietnamese government".

Related stories:
Drug penalty violates international law -- 06 May, 2007
Viet Nam death penalty "not deterring drugs" -- 25 November, 2006
Asia leads the world's known executions -- 15 April, 2008
20,000 waiting to be killed -- 23 April, 2006

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