On This Day in 2016: The Conviction of the Murderer of Do Dang Du

On This Day in 2016: The Conviction of the Murderer of Do Dang Du

The Conviction

On Sept. 22, 2016, the Hanoi People’s Court held a first-instance trial [1] for Vu Van Binh, who was 18 years old at the time, on the charge of “intending to cause injury” according to the Penal Code. Binh, a juvenile detainee and a resident of Chuong My District, Hanoi, was accused of assaulting his fellow cellmate, Do Dang Du while both were in police detention, eventually leading to Du’s death. The court later found Binh guilty and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

The trial first opened on May 24, 2016, but the judicial board adjourned the hearing and requested additional investigation as some details in the case needed clarification.

Both Du and Binh were kept in cell C15 in Detention Center No. 3, which remained under the management of the Hanoi Police Department. They stayed with two other juveniles, Nguyen Nam Truong and Le Duc Anh. They were all born in 1998.

According to the police investigations, as reported in Vietnam’s state media, the juvenile detainees had breakfast in their detention room at around 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 4, 2015. After breakfast, it was Du’s turn to wash the dishes. Thinking that Du did not thoroughly wash the dishes, Binh, assigned cell monitor by the prison authorities, allegedly slapped Du twice on the left cheek and continued kicking him with his heels three times in the head and forehead.

After that, Du went into the bathroom and reportedly slipped and fell on the floor. His cellmates came to help him, but Du started to vomit and fell to his knees. The juvenile detainee was then taken to the hospital for emergency treatment. He died at 6:00 p.m. on Oct. 10, 2015, due to severe leg and head wounds.

Why was Do Dang Du Detained?

Do Dang Du, who lived in Dong Phuong Yen Commune, Chuong My District, Hanoi, was detained on Aug. 5, 2015, after the Chuong My District Police allegedly caught him stealing 2 million dong (around $83 in 2023). He was only 17 years old at the time of arrest.

Do Thi Tuyet, Du’s aunt, told [2] Voice of America (VOA News) on Oct. 8 that during the period of two months when Du was detained, the police did not allow his family to visit him. Tuyet added the police prevented Du’s family members from staying in the hospital to take care of him after he was hospitalized in a coma.

At the same time, Du’s lawyers and other Vietnamese activists raised concerns [3] about his detention and the prevalence of violence in Vietnam’s prisons. They believed that the Chuong My District Police had violated criminal procedure measures by jailing a juvenile found only committing a minor offense.

Maj. Gen. Nguyen Duc Chung, then director of the Hanoi Police Department, said [4] the arrest and detention of Du by the Chuong My District Police was “in accordance with the provisions of the law.”

The Ambiguous Death

However, the family of Do Dang Du and their defense lawyers questioned [5] the investigation results published by the police and requested another inspection into the case conducted by an independent agency. They believed the police had manipulated the results to conceal the main culprit who caused Du’s death in custody.

On Oct. 16, 2015, one week after Du died, Do Thi Mai, his mother, wrote [6] a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council requesting another investigation into his demise. In the letter, Mai wrote that her son’s death was “very ambiguous,” and she believed he was not beaten to death by his fellow inmates.

The lawyers who assisted Du's family, Tran Thu Nam and Le Van Luan, were assaulted by a group of thugs wearing masks while driving to the Dong Phuong Yen Commune People’s Committee on Nov.3 to talk to Du’s family.

A spokesperson from the Hanoi Police Department later told [7] reporters at a press conference that eight young villagers had attacked Nam and Luan because their vehicle “created too much dust” as they drove to Dong Phuong Yen Commune in Chuong My District.

On Nov. 11, Vietnamese plainclothes police temporarily detained Tran Vu Hai, another lawyer. Hai planned to visit Hanoi’s police headquarters to discuss the case of Do Dang Du and the earlier attack on his colleagues, Nam and Luan.


[1] Báo Người Lao Động Online. (2016, September 22). Vụ Đỗ Đăng Dư: Đánh chết bạn tù, lãnh án 10 năm. https://nld.com.vn. https://nld.com.vn/thoi-su-trong-nuoc/vu-do-dang-du-danh-chet-ban-tu-lanh-an-10-nam-20160922221328392.htm

[2] Mi, T. (2015, October 8). Thiếu niên 17 tuổi nguy kịch tính mạng sau 2 tháng bị công an tạm giam. VOA. https://www.voatiengviet.com/a/thieu-nien-muoi-bay-tuoi-nguy-kich-tinh-mang-sau-hai-thang-bi-tam-giam/2996862.html

[3] Như, C. (2020, October 11). Câu chuyện Đỗ Đăng Dư - Lại một cái chết mờ ám. Radio Free Asia. https://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/news/programs/YouthForum/do-dang-du-another-shady-death-10212015111521.html

[4] BBC News Tiếng Việt. (2015b, October 25). Tướng Chung: ‘Bắt giữ Đỗ Đăng Dư đúng luật.’ BBC News Tiếng Việt. https://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/vietnam/2015/10/151025_do_dang_du_nguyen_duc_chung_comments

[5] Ives, M. (2017, August 12). ‘It’s very easy to die there’: How prisoners fare in Vietnam. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/12/world/asia/vietnam-prison-abuses.html

[6] BBC News Tiếng Việt. (2015a, October 17). Gia đình Đỗ Đăng Dư “gửi đơn cho LHQ.” BBC News Tiếng Việt. https://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/vietnam/2015/10/151017_do_dang_du_un

[7] Vietnamese police detain lawyer working on case of Death-in-Custody victim. (2020, October 11). Radio Free Asia. https://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/vietnamese-police-detain-lawyer-working-on-case-of-death-in-custody-victim-11122015144904.html

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