The Execution of Le Van Manh Urgently Highlights the Need for Legal Reforms and a Halt to Executions in Vietnam

The Execution of Le Van Manh Urgently Highlights the Need for Legal Reforms and a Halt to Executions in Vietnam

In a tragic and deeply distressing turn of events, Vietnam witnessed the execution of Le Van Manh on Sept. 22, 2023.

Manh was one of three wrongful death-row inmates in the country who had been wrongfully sentenced to death in over a decade. Along with Ho Duy Hai's and Nguyen Van Chuong's families, Manh's family also petitioned the cases monthly in Hanoi, asking for their dismissal in almost two decades.

But Vietnam killed Le Van Manh by lethal injection in September 2023, ending his case abruptly. Nevertheless, we should not forget his subject and his ordeals on death row for almost twenty years.

This heartbreaking incident raises serious questions about the fairness and efficacy of Vietnam's legal system, underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive reforms to prevent further miscarriages of justice.

Manh's execution is a painful reminder of the inherent flaws in Vietnam's legal framework. He should not have faced such a fate if the legal system were just and equitable. Sadly, that day in September, Manh was executed without the opportunity for a final visit from his family, even as his mother and younger sister were submitting petitions to various governmental bodies, desperately seeking a review of his criminal case.

For nearly two decades, Le Van Manh professed his innocence, asserting that he had been tortured into confessing - a confession used against him in court as the core evidence to sentence him to death. The Vietnamese government failed to prove his guilt, lacking any substantial evidence to substantiate the alleged rape and murder of the 14-year-old victim in the case.

Yet, despite the lack of compelling evidence, Manh was executed based on a coerced "confessing letter" obtained under extreme duress.

Furthermore, the testimony of his younger sister, Le Thi Le, who was a minor in 2005, might also be used against him.

Le recalled being interviewed by the police without her parents present and was coerced into signing a statement, the contents of which were never fully explained. She now grapples with guilt, burdened by the knowledge that her testimony may have unjustly contributed to her brother's conviction and subsequent execution.

“I will never know the words that the police put down as my testimony, but I am in pain just to think that maybe they were used to send my older brother to the death row,” Le said.

This tragic episode highlights the critical need for comprehensive legal reforms in Vietnam. The country must reevaluate its approach to criminal cases, shifting towards an evidence-based system that respects the rights of the accused and adheres to international human rights standards.

One of the fundamental steps toward reform involves an immediate cessation of executions. Vietnam must halt capital punishment while implementing necessary reforms to prevent wrongful convictions and the irreversible loss of human lives. The death penalty should be administered judiciously and sparingly, in full compliance with international human rights norms.

A just and fair legal system is the cornerstone of any democratic society. It is incumbent upon Vietnam to rise to the occasion, reexamine its legal processes, and demonstrate a genuine commitment to upholding human rights and justice for all. Lives are at stake, and the time for change is now.

Vietnam has made significant economic and social development strides, but a robust legal system that guarantees justice for all is equally critical for a genuinely progressive and humane society. Reforms must prioritize the protection of the accused, ensuring they are treated fairly and justly throughout the legal process.

While concrete steps of reforms may be in progress, halting executions is very critical in this authoritarian regime right now. How many more wrongful death row inmates like Le Van Manh that Vietnam is willing to sacrifice when reforms have yet to take place?

The Vietnamese government, nevertheless, should consider instituting reforms that promote transparency, objectivity, and adherence to the rule of law. This involves bolstering investigative procedures, legal representation, and the admissibility of evidence to uphold the principles of justice and protect the innocent from wrongful convictions.

In addition to the legal system, public awareness and education on legal rights and due process are pivotal. Empowering citizens with knowledge about their rights and the workings of the legal system can help foster a society that values justice and equality.

Ultimately, the urgent plea is for Vietnam to reevaluate its approach to capital punishment. Globally, there is a growing trend toward abolishing the death penalty due to its irreversible and inhumane nature. By embracing this trend and taking a stand against capital punishment, Vietnam can showcase its commitment to human rights and a fair legal system that values life and justice as a current member of the Human Rights Council.

The execution of Le Van Manh shines a harsh light on the deficiencies within Vietnam's legal system. This tragic incident should catalyze immediate and meaningful reforms that prioritize fairness, justice, and human rights. We shall not let Manh dies in vain. Vietnam needs to reform its legal system now, and every effort should be made to ensure that such a tragedy never occurs again. And when that day comes, Le Van Manh will rest in peace.

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