VIETNAM – Justice ministry propounds reduction of death penalty

april 10, 2014

The Vietnamese Ministry of Justice has suggested that the government consider limiting the scope of capital punishment, reducing charges subject to jail term sentences and expanding the application of non-custodial reforms.

>> Vietnam executes first prisoner by lethal injection
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The proposal is included in a recent report submitted by the ministry to the government about an orientation for amending the Penal Code, Tran Tien Dung, chief secretariat of the ministry, said Tuesday at a press briefing to review the justice sector’s performance in the first quarter of this year.

The ministry has also proposed non-criminalization of a number of offenses defined in the Penal Code, for the current criminalization of such offenses has no longer been conformable to the 2013 Constitution, Dung said.

At the same time, the ministry has also suggested the criminalization of many other offenses that are highly dangerous to society but are not yet governed by the Code, such as getting illicit gains.

22 charges subject to capital sentence

In 1985, the Penal Code stipulated 29 charges subjected to the death penalty, accounting for 14.89 percent of the total number of charges provided for the Code.

After that, the Code underwent four amendments, which brought the number of charges facing death to 44.

In 1999, the Code was revised again and the number of offenses subject to the death penalty was reduced to 22 out of the total number of 272 prescribed in the Code.

In a conference on death penalty reduction jointly organized in Hanoi by the Ministry of Justice and the UNDP in late December 2013, many law experts suggested that the highest penalty should be abolished for nine of the 22 above counts.

If the proposal is approved in the future, this means the number of charges subject to a capital sentence will be lowered to 13.

Lethal injection

In regards to the execution of death sentences, Vietnam switched from firing squad to lethal injection in November 2011, under Decree 82/2011 by the government, based on the Law on Criminal Verdict Execution approved by the National Assembly in 2009.

The government also designated three types of drugs that had to be used to execute death row inmates.

All three must be imported from other countries because they cannot be produced at home.

However, the new execution method took years to implement due to a failure to import the drugs from the European Union (EU), which banned the exportation of lethal injection drugs because it considers capital punishment a violation of human rights.

The Vietnamese government then issued Decree 47/2013 to amend Decree 82, allowing domestically produced drugs to be used for executions.

Decree 47 took effect on June 27, 2013 and the first execution by lethal injection was carried out in Hanoi on August 6 last year.


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