On May 8, 2020, around 15:30 Hanoi’s time, the 17 members-committee of the Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam reaffirmed Ho Duy Hai’s lower courts’ decisions and again sentenced him to death. They have also denied the petition for a cassation trial from the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Vietnam.
Hai’s death sentence has been affirmed
In its statement denying the petition from the Judicial Committee of the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Vietnam, the committee even though agreed there were prosecutorial mistakes. Still, its members believed those mistakes did not change the character of the case. Accordingly, the Judicial Committee of the highest court believed that the lower courts have duly convicted Hai and sentenced him to death. Therefore, they affirmed the lower courts’ decisions, effectively sentenced Hai to death again.
The Judicial Committee of the Supreme People’s Court believed these prosecutorial mistakes did not change the character of the case. Yet, if we look at them from an international law perspective, they might have violated the defendant’s right to a fair trial. The errors admitted by the government were among the followings:
- No murder weapons. The alleged “weapons” were purchased at a market by the police.
- Hai’s DNA, fingerprints were not found at the crime scene.
- Hai also was convicted of ‘robbery’ in the same case, but the police could not find any of the items alleged to be robbed by him.
- No eyewitness identified Hai at the crime scene.
Technically, there was no physical evidence. The only evidence in the case was Hai’s confession. Under Vietnam’s laws, the confession could not be the sole evidence used to convict defendants.
Would Hai’s life be saved under Vietnam’s laws?
The cassation trial is the highest court’s proceeding in a case in Vietnam. But Hai still has three options (link is in Vietnamese) under Vietnam’s laws to save his life.
- The National Assembly could intervene and request the Judicial Committee of the Supreme People’s Court to conduct a meeting to review the cassation trial’s decision.
- The Head of the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Vietnam petitioned, or the Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court requested the Judicial Committee to review their decision in the cassation trial.
- The President of Vietnam pardons the death sentence.
The cassation trial of Ho Duy Hai during the past three days has created a lot of public discussion in Vietnam. People have discussed the case because many of them saw the injustice of Ho Duy Hai’s judgment during the last twelve years.
One of the National Assembly’s members, Mr. Le Thanh Van, a representative Ca Mau province, has also expressed his opinion on his Facebook account. Mr. Le said that he would do all that he could to push for Vietnam’s Congress to intervene with this case. He stated that the decision of the cassation trial is unconvincing and not persuasive enough.
Numerous attorneys and journalists also expressed on social media that the decision of the cassation trial’s decision was not fair. They believed that Ho Duy Hai should have been released. One of them was Huy Duc, the author of the book The Winning Side (Ben Thang Cuoc).