Vietnam Keeps Its Death Sentences Silent, But It’s One of the World’s Biggest Executioners

She prayed for justice for her only son Quan when he was detained drug charges in a maximum security prison in Vietnam. She prayed for his physical health and mental well-being, for him to be cared for in prison as she could no longer see him due to the tightened Covid-19 restrictions.

Above all, she prayed for his safe return.

Quan, a salesman, was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death by lethal injection. He was executed in 2021 at the age of 31.

Tied flat on his back in a straitjacket, he was strapped to a stretcher and injected with a cocktail of deadly drugs. But unlike other countries like the United States that use lethal injections in states like Texas, Mai Linh was not allowed to be with her son during his final moments.

“There is nothing, nothing that can prepare you for something like this,” Mai Linh said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how he died. The pain is inexplicable.”

“The death penalty is another kind of evil,” she added. “The one that will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

Vietnam is notoriously secretive about its use of capital punishment. However, rights groups believe he is one of the biggest executioners in the world and the biggest in Southeast Asia. Previously classified government data made public and published in Vietnamese state media in 2017 revealed that 429 executions took place between 2013 and 2016, putting the country behind China and Iran in its application of the death penalty.
A report published by Amnesty International this week found that global executions rose by 20% as Covid-19 restrictions in countries eased. However, as in previous years, it did not include China and Vietnam where executions are considered state secrets. But Amnesty was able to confirm “partial disclosures” by Vietnamese authorities which indicated a rapid increase in the number of death sentences of almost 30% – which were handed down between October 1, 2020 and July 31, 2021. It also said that 11 execution centers across the country had been “used” throughout the year.

The group now estimates there are more than 1,000 people on death row in the country, including foreigners from Laos, Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia and a 73-year-old Australian woman convicted of drug trafficking. dope.

The ruling Vietnamese Communist Party has long defended and justified its use of the death penalty. State documents released in 2017 showed approvals of lethal injections by the Department of Public Safety.

CNN contacted the Vietnamese government to comment on this story but received no response.

Best executioner in the region

Vietnam remains Southeast Asia’s biggest executioner, as figures in the Amnesty report suggest, although the situation in Myanmar was also mentioned.

“An alarming increase in the number of known death sentences has been recorded in Myanmar, where the death penalty has become a tool for the military in the continued and widespread persecution, intimidation, harassment and violence against protesters and journalists,” the report said.

Although no executions took place in Myanmar in 2021, at least 86 recorded death sentences were handed down – an increase from previous years, when the number of death sentences remained below 10. Among them were 65 people sentenced to death by military tribunals.
disturbing images released earlier this year also appeared to show prison gallows being prepared for what rights groups say are the first official executions in the country in more than three decades.

Under martial law regulations, junta leader Min Aung Hlaing approves all executions and has the power to quash executions or commute death sentences to lesser ones. There is “no appeal against decisions or sentences handed down” by a military tribunal, according to junta officials.

CNN reached out to junta officials to comment on this story but received no response.

No executions were recorded in 2021 in neighboring Singapore and Indonesia, which both carry out death sentences for murder, possession of firearms and drug trafficking, although Singapore resumed executions in 2022. The city-state has executed Malaysian citizen Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam – an intellectually disabled man convicted of drug trafficking – in April.

“Data on the death penalty in Vietnam continues to be classified as a state secret,” said Chiara Sangiorgio, death penalty expert at Amnesty.

“[This] The secrecy and the fact that the country’s media are closely monitored or controlled by the state have certainly contributed to the lack of information and international spotlight on the subject.

Capital punishment: inhuman aberration or necessary deterrent?

“We have written to the authorities requesting information, as we do for all countries that still retain the death penalty each year in preparation for our report. We have received no response.”

The vast majority of Vietnamese death sentences are related to drug offences, which Amnesty said accounted for 93 of the 119 death sentences handed down last year.

Others awaiting execution include once-powerful businessmen convicted of corruption, embezzlement and fraud. Nguyen Xuan Son, a former senior official who once headed a major Vietnamese bank, was sentenced to death in 2017 for his role in a fraud involving millions of dollars in illegal loans. Others have also been convicted of state corruption.

Others on death row have been convicted of murder.

Last year, a court in the capital, Hanoi, upheld the death sentences of two brothers, Le Dinh Cong and Le Dinh Chuc, both farmers, for their role in the murder of three police officers who were burned to death during violent clashes in their village.

Villagers blamed the violence on authorities’ attempts to build a wall on farmland. The judges defended the death sentences, saying the brothers ignored the law and “showed no respect” for the lives of security personnel.

The death penalty “used to intimidate”

Vietnam’s alleged rise to executioner status in Southeast Asia may surprise some, but rights groups warn that executions in the country are likely to increase in the coming years.

“Vietnam continues to execute people at a staggering rate,” said Ben Swanton, advocacy director of Project 88, a nonprofit that defends free speech and human rights in the country. .

“The Communist Party of Vietnam is aware that its use of the death penalty contradicts its narrative that the country is a peaceful and harmonious society and has the potential to damage its international reputation.”

Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for Asia, Phil Robertson, called Vietnam “one of the worst rights-abusing states” in Southeast Asia.

“The death penalty in Vietnam is used to intimidate those who would break the law, while showing the power of the ruling party,” Robertson said. “This is a government that hunts down dissidents, tramples civil society, convicts and imprisons people after sham trials, and now we know it executes far more people than anyone else in the world. [the region].”

Comparing it to neighboring Singapore and Indonesia, countries that have made headlines over the years with their execution cases, Robertson said, “Vietnam’s horrific execution record eclipses that of no country.” any of its neighbours, but it’s no surprise that the government has consistently implemented the death penalty and kept executions out of public view. »


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