Interview with Professor Tuong Vu on the Vietnamese Communist Party: War Legacies and Future Prospects
Ninety-four years ago, on Feb. 3, 1930, the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) was founded. The party took Vietnam into three
Convictions based on confessions obtained through torture should never be admissible, especially in a murder case.
In the murder case that Vietnam alleged Nguyen Van Chuong was the main culprit, his younger brother, Nguyen Trong Doan, was also sentenced to two years in prison for “concealing witnesses and evidence.”
Many have asked why Doan was arrested and sentenced to two years in connection with his older brother's case. What was the evidence, and who were the witnesses that Doan allegedly concealed? It was all connected to Doan’s efforts to bring forward alibi witnesses to defend Chuong. The authorities ignored his pleas to look into the testimonies of these witnesses. Instead, they arrested and tortured Doan, forcing him to confess that he “concealed evidence” in the case and then charging him with a crime.
In a distressing tale of injustice, Nguyen Trong Doan and his older brother, Nguyen Van Chuong, have been wrongfully imprisoned for a crime they did not commit. Even worse, there have been credible shocking allegations of police torture and coerced confessions. The case should raise grave concerns about the treatment of detainees in Vietnam's justice system.
Doan recalled how he endured a terrifying ordeal at the hands of law enforcement officers during his detention. The brothers’ allegations suggest that they were subjected to brutal torture, including physical abuse and psychological torment, to extract a confession to the alleged crime.
In an interview with Luat Khoa Magazine in October 2019, Doan described his harrowing experience at the police station in Hai Phong in August 2007:
"They took me to the investigation team's room. At first, they were nice, and I cooperated and provided the necessary information. They told me to sit down and write a report on what I wanted to ask them to investigate. But things turned dark when the officers read my report and became aggressive, accusing me of being a stupid witness trying to outsmart the police. They started to hit me then.
I was handcuffed behind the chair near the door, and they kept walking in and out, taking turns to beat me up. They also asked: ‘Do you see the blood stain on that door? It's your brother's blood. Your brother is bigger than you but could not withstand it.’
As the night progressed, the beatings continued, and I was kept handcuffed to a bench. The officers continued to question me, but I kept my testimony the same, and they beat me up again. There was no point in screaming because they closed the door tightly shut, and no one could hear my screams.
At one later point, a Lieutenant Colonel walked in and urged me to write a report as the police wished and threatened that my family's safety depended on it. This person told me if I wrote it according to the police officers and withdrew all of the allegations about the alibi witnesses, they would release me.
I was terrified by the brutality of the police, and I just wanted to go home and escape the fear.
This experience left me deeply shaken. I never imagined the police could resort to such violence without considering the truth. I only wanted to return home and inform my family about the appalling treatment I endured during the police investigation."
Under immense duress, Doan reportedly gave a coerced confession as the police officers dictated it to him, leading to his wrongful conviction and subsequent imprisonment for two years.
Nguyen Trong Doan, implicated in the same case in which Nguyen Van Chuong and others were tried, served a two-year sentence for "concealing evidence." Upon his release in 2009, he married a classmate in 2013, and they had two children. Tragically, a few years later, Doan was diagnosed with bone cancer and passed away on June 7, 2023, just two months ago. His family now has to deal with the court notice of the imminent execution of Nguyen Van Chuong if the Vietnamese government insists on carrying it out.
In 2013, witness Tran Quang Tuat came forward to the media, revealing that he had been coerced by investigators, including being physically assaulted, into giving false statements. Tuat corrected his previous testimony, asserting that Nguyen Van Chuong was at his house precisely during a rainstorm at 09:15 P.M. on July 14, 2007. Tuat said Chuong even helped his wife cover the melons while waiting for others to weigh them, making it impossible for him to have been in Hai Phong committing the alleged crimes.
Nguyen Thi Bay, wife of Nguyen Van Chuong, also spoke to the media, providing an alibi for her husband. She stated that on the evening of July 14, 2007, Chuong had dinner with his friend Truong at Thien Than Cafe, where she and Chuong operated a massage shop, before returning to Hai Duong. It was not until about 11:00 P.M. the next day, July 15, 2007, that Chuong returned to that cafe in Hai Phong City.
Nguyen Trong Doan also shared his account with the press, revealing that the police presented him with a false confession attributed to Nguyen Van Chuong, pressuring him to testify that Chuong was not at Hai Duong during the alleged time of the crime. Doan asserted to the police that the confession was not in Chuong's handwriting, so he was subjected to immediate physical abuse. He claimed that the police reportedly made chilling remarks, alluding to another case where they disregarded the entire village's testimony and pursued their own agenda.
These revelations cast serious doubts on the validity of the case against Nguyen Van Chuong and highlight concerns over the investigators' use of coercion and violence. The discrepancies in witness accounts and the alleged manipulation of evidence raise significant questions about the fairness and integrity of the original trial.
The government is responsible for upholding its commitment to international human rights standards, which unequivocally condemn torture and forced confessions. The Vietnamese authorities need to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into the allegations and hold accountable any officers found responsible for violating the rights of the innocent.
The victim's wrongful imprisonment not only robs them of their freedom but also exposes the deep flaws in the justice system, perpetuating an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. Rectifying this miscarriage of justice requires urgent action, including the immediate release of the innocent individual, Nguyen Van Chuong.
Beyond this specific case, the incident serves as a stark reminder of the need to address broader issues of police accountability and judicial fairness in Vietnam. Legal reforms, increased training in human rights for law enforcement personnel, and greater transparency in criminal investigations are essential steps toward building a more just and equitable society.
As public outrage mounts and international pressure intensifies, the Vietnamese government faces a critical juncture. How it responds to this grave injustice will be a testament to its commitment to upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights and dignity of all its citizens. Only through meaningful reforms and accountability can the wounds of this tragic incident begin to heal, and the nation move towards a more just and compassionate future.
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