Viet Nam: latest death sentences a setback to human rights progress

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The ICJ deplores the death sentences handed down by the People’s Court of Hanoi on December 17 to two former shipping executives and urges the government of Viet Nam to desist from carrying out the planned executions.

Viet Nam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines) former chairman Duong Chi Dung and former general director Mai Van Phuc were found guilty of embezzling nearly USD $1 million from the state-owned company and sentenced to death.

“The announced death sentences fly in the face of encouraging human rights developments in Viet Nam, such as the State’s signing the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in November,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s regional director for Asia and the Pacific. “This is a major setback at a time when it appeared Viet Nam was making progress towards ending capital punishment.”

The ICJ considers the death penalty to constitute a violation of the right to life and the right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

Following the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in 2009, Viet Nam agreed to revise its legislation on the death penalty in line with the country’s international obligations.

Since then it has reduced the number of crimes punishable by death, and changed its method of administering the sentence from firing squad to injection by lethal substance.

It is estimated that more than 600 people remain on death row in the country. Most were convicted on drug-related offences.

“At present, approximately two thirds of the world’s countries have already either abolished capital punishment or have moratoriums on executions,” said Zarifi. “It is regrettable that Viet Nam has chosen to exclude itself from this global trend.”

The ICJ calls on the Government of Viet Nam to immediately put in place a moratorium on its practice, with a view to abolishing the death penalty, as demanded by the United Nations General Assembly in repeated resolutions on the question.

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