Sunday, 23 November 2008

Viet Nam: Death penalty reduction debated

Deputies in Viet Nam's national assembly (NA) have debated a proposal to reduce the number of capital crimes, including for corruption, bribery and producing fake drugs.

According to Thanh Nien News, the current session of the NA considered an amended draft criminal code, which would see the death sentence removed from 17 of the current 29 capital offences.

NA deputies spoke against removing the death penalty for these offences at sittings on 7 November.

"It is necessary to retain death sentences for embezzlement and bribery to prevent people from engaging in the crimes, as our fight against corruption is now very fierce," said Nguyen Dang Trung, NA deputy and Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association.

Earlier in the week, judicial committee chairwoman Le Thi Thu Ba said the death penalty was necessary for bribery and corruption because they were "a national disaster".

The Thanh Nien report said deputies told the NA the death penalty should not be removed from crimes such as manufacturing counterfeit food and pharmaceutical products, because "it could affect human life on a large scale, hinder smooth economic growth and cause other serious consequences".

Other deputies argued it would not be reasonable to remove the death sentence for crimes against humanity and national security, when an offender could be executed for killing one person.

The reported comments left open the possibility that the death penalty could be removed for other offences on the proposed list, including for rape, fraud, smuggling and organising the illegal use of drugs.

"Developmental" need to kill
Presenters at a seminar in October argued the death penalty was necessary to deal with "extremely dangerous crimes", particularly given the country's current stage of development.

The VNA news service reported the workshop, organised by Vietnam's Institute of State and Law and Germany's KAS Institute, discussed the use of the death penalty and the possibility of abolition.

It reported that unnamed legal experts pointed to "the experiences of some countries at a similar developmental level to Vietnam" to argue the death penalty was needed to deter potential criminals against "certain crimes".

"They agreed that the abolition of the death penalty should follow a road map with specific steps depending on certain social conditions," the report said.

This is similar to the argument used by senior officials in China, who have argued the county needed to achieve a certain level of development before it could abolish the death penalty.

Notwithstanding this argument, the officials have been unable to point to evidence that the death penalty provides a greater degree of deterrence than other, less severe, punishments.

Ministry proposal
Vietnamese media reported in July that the Ministry of Public Security recommended the death penalty be abolished for 12 crimes, including smuggling, trading in false products and hijacking (ADP story here).

VietNamNet reported a recommendation would be made to the National Assembly to amend the Criminal Code to limit the penalty to what the paper described as "only to those committing the most heinous crimes and people considered to be a serious danger to the community and the nation's security".

"The aim of the amendment is to make the country’s criminal code more compliant with world trends to humanise laws and completely abolish the death penalty," said Nguyen Ngoc Anh, head of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Public Security.

In 1999, the number of offences attracting a death sentence was reduced from 44 to 29 offences.
VietNamNet said 116 people were sentenced to death in 2006 and 95 in 2007, although it did not confirm how many people were actually executed.

The July VietNamNet report said the full list included: appropriating property by fraud; smuggling; producing and trading fake food and medical products; being involved in producing, storing and circulating counterfeit money, bonds and cheques; organising the illegal use of drugs; hijacking aeroplanes or ships; corruption; taking and giving bribes; destroying army weapons or technical equipment; being involved in an invasion; anti-human crimes and those convicted of war crimes.

Human rights call
On 10 November Amnesty International encouraged Vietnamese authorities to "carry out the proposed reforms and introduce a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty".

It said Vietname authorities did not allow international standards for fair trials to be followed in practice.

"Legal counsel is often assigned to defendants at the last minute, allowing little pre-trial preparation," the organisation said.

"The defence is not always allowed to call or question witnesses, and private consultation with counsel may be limited.

"In many cases, all the defence counsel can do is plead for clemency."

Related stories:
Viet Nam: Reduction in death penalty offences? -- 23 July 2008
Viet Nam death penalty "not deterring drugs" -- 25 November 2006


Anonymous said...

Why have you deleted link to Australians Against Capital Punishment? Do abolitionists HAVE to do things your way only? Why do you focus only on the DP in Asia? You seem to be taking the discriminative Australia's stance on DP, Asians matter other don't!

Tim Goodwin, ADP said...

The AACP link has not been removed - see second link under the heading 'Abolitionist blogs'.

This blog supports the goal of the abolitionist movement as a whole - a world without executions. Different groups and networks are active on different aspects of the death penalty, and between us we cover different countries and regions. We are working towards a common goal.

This blog is focused on developments in the Asian region. It also links to other sources of death penalty information, including about the death penalty worldwide and the very active campaigns focused on the USA and particular US states.

Many readers who come to the site are looking for information specifically about the death penalty in this region.

Anonymous said...

Anon, is that you Darren?

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