Time to End the Death Penalty in Vietnam: Uniting for Human Rights and a Global Consensus

As one of the 55 countries still retaining capital punishment, Vietnam must face rigorous scrutiny of its legal system and cases of police abuse. Vietnam should take immediate steps to either abolish the death penalty or establish a moratorium on its implementation.

Time to End the Death Penalty in Vietnam: Uniting for Human Rights and a Global Consensus

The death penalty, a practice steeped in controversy, stands at a crossroads as international consensus strengthens against its existence. This movement towards abolition has garnered significant support from the United Nations General Assembly and numerous governments, reflecting a broader acknowledgment of the inherent flaws and moral dilemmas associated with capital punishment.

The U.N. General Assembly's recurring resolutions, underscored by the resounding approval in General Assembly Resolution 77/222 dated December 15, 2022, unambiguously urge all nations still retaining the death penalty to enact an immediate moratorium on its implementation. The ultimate goal of this moratorium is a world without capital punishment, where every individual's right to life is preserved and protected.

In line with this global sentiment, the death penalty presents several critical concerns that challenge its compatibility with human rights principles. Many governments and international bodies concur that the death penalty constitutes an egregious violation of the fundamental right to life, enshrined in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This principle asserts that the state's role is to safeguard life rather than take it away.

The death penalty's inherent nature as a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment is unmistakably incompatible with the values upheld by Article 7 of the ICCPR and the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). The essence of human dignity demands that no individual be subjected to such treatment, regardless of their alleged crimes.

In the case of nations like Vietnam that maintain the death penalty, stringent measures must be put in place to ensure that it is only employed for the gravest offenses. The application of capital punishment should be limited to instances of "the most serious crimes" and executed through a judicial process that adheres to the highest standards of international law and fairness. The UN Human Rights Committee's insightful observation reinforces this sentiment, highlighting the irrefutable link between a fair trial and the imposition of the death penalty. An absence of due process renders the sentence arbitrary and violates the very principles of the ICCPR.

In the three wrongful death penalties of Nguyen Van Chuong, Ho Duy Hai, and Le Van Manh, the defendants claimed they were innocent and said that the police used physical force to elicit their confessions. These coerced confessions became the only evidence to convict and send them to their death. Their verdicts should not be upheld, and a thorough investigation should be made in each case to exonerate them.

The convergence of these arguments underscores the urgent need to abolish the death penalty in Vietnam. As societies evolve and justice systems strive for more equitable outcomes, the glaring inconsistencies, potential for error, and ethical reservations surrounding capital punishment cannot be ignored. Instead, an unwavering commitment to human rights, life preservation, and a world free from the specter of the death penalty should guide Vietnam’s collective journey toward a more just and compassionate future.

The worldwide abolition of the death penalty is a testament to evolving human rights values and a commitment to justice. However, a closer look at the legal systems and practices in countries that continue to retain this practice reveals nuanced complexities. Notably, nations such as Vietnam, categorized as authoritative regimes, often operate under dubious legal frameworks while shrouding their executions in secrecy.

The global trend toward abolishing the death penalty is undeniable. A growing number of countries have embraced the principles of human rights, justice, and the sanctity of life, eliminating capital punishment from their legal systems. Yet, while many nations have taken this significant step, others still grapple with the ethical, moral, and procedural implications of retaining the death penalty.

Amid this landscape, countries like Vietnam warrant particular scrutiny. These nations often wield unchecked power and exhibit significant limitations in transparency and fairness in their legal systems. In the context of Vietnam, the death penalty raises questions about the reliability of trials, the suppression of dissenting voices, and the potential for human rights abuses.

Vietnam, for instance, maintains the death penalty while facing criticism for the opacity of its legal system. Executions are often carried out hidden from the public eye, shielding them from global scrutiny. As of right now, the government has been silent on these questions: What happened to Nguyen Van Chuong? Is he still alive, or has he been executed? His family faced an ominous silence when they tried to discover his fate.

The lack of transparency raises concerns about the accuracy of verdicts and the fairness of trials. It perpetuates a cycle of secrecy that hampers accountability and justice in Vietnam’s death penalty cases.

Vietnam's Death Penalty Amidst Its Human Rights Council Membership

Vietnam's recent membership in the Human Rights Council lends it a unique responsibility to uphold and promote the values of human rights on a global stage. Yet, the veil of secrecy surrounding its death penalty practices challenges this commitment and raises pressing questions about its adherence to transparency and international norms.

During the country's third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2019, a representative from Vietnam's Ministry of Justice alluded to the classification of execution data as state secrets while also asserting that executions are public and conform to procedural codes. This contradictory stance perplexes observers, leaving execution data undisclosed while claiming public adherence to protocol.

Despite not explicitly classifying execution information as state secrets, Vietnam's legal framework grants substantial leeway in determining what constitutes a "secret." This flexibility blurs the line between genuine national security concerns and a potential blanket of opacity that extends to public matters.

A 2017 report by the Ministry of Public Security provided rare insights, revealing that Vietnam held over a thousand death row inmates between 2011 and 2016, with hundreds executed by lethal injection during that period. Notably, details about the drugs used were withheld. Subsequent executions continue to remain shrouded in secrecy.

As a member of the Human Rights Council, Vietnam is urged to lead by example, embracing transparency, accountability, and human rights principles. The disconnect between its global commitment and its use of capital punishment raises questions about its dedication to these values.

Furthermore, Vietnam's assertion that it applies the death penalty only to the most serious crimes, as per Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), rings hollow in light of the exceptions. Crimes such as subversion, espionage, embezzlement, and receiving bribes, which carry the death penalty, challenge this claim.

Vietnam's maintenance of the death penalty for drug-related offenses, in defiance of Article 6 of the ICCPR, compounds concerns. In an era of global discussions centered around human rights, accountability, and justice, Vietnam's continued use of the death penalty overshadowed its role in the Human Rights Council.

As a member of this esteemed council, Vietnam has a unique opportunity to reflect its commitment to human rights through concrete actions, starting with abolishing the death penalty and embracing transparency in its legal system. The world is watching, waiting for Vietnam to rise above its shrouded practices and emerge as a beacon of human rights progress.

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