Amnesty International Documents At Least 122 Death Sentences in Vietnam Last Year

Amnesty International Documents At Least 122 Death Sentences in Vietnam Last Year

Notable events:

  • Amnesty International: Vietnam Imposes At Least 122 Death Sentences in 2023
  • EU Annual Report on Human Rights: Vietnam’s Civil Society Space ‘Shrinks Further’
  • Khmer Krom Activist Denied Passport, Possibly Due to Activism for Indigenous Rights
  • Russian Foreign Ministry: President Putin’s visit to Vietnam ‘At an Advanced State’

Amnesty International: Vietnam Imposes At Least 122 Death Sentences in 2023

In 2023, at least 1,153 executions occurred, and at least 2,428 death sentences were imposed in 52 countries worldwide, according to an Amnesty International report released on May 28. The London-based human rights advocacy group noted that at the end of 2023, at least 27,687 people around the world were subjected to capital punishment, a slight decrease from 2,016 recorded sentences in the previous year. At least 1,153 executions were documented in 16 countries last year, a 31% increase over the previous year (883 cases).

The report said that the use of the death penalty violates fundamental human rights, as protected under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that it deprives a person of his or her right to life and the right to live free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Amnesty International added that international law restricts the application of the death penalty to “the most serious crimes” and that “the death penalty is never the answer.”

Vietnam carried out more than one execution every year, and at least 122 death sentences were imposed last year in this Southeast Asian nation. However, the exact number of executions remains unknown because the government regards death penalty data as a “state secret,” and therefore, official figures are not publicized. Lethal injection is the execution method used in Vietnam.

Last year, Vietnam executed the wrongful death-row inmate Le Van Manh on Sept. 22, triggering a massive public outcry and drawing international attention. The European Union and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions issued statements condemning the execution. They called on Hanoi to adopt a moratorium on all executions.

Meanwhile, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and the United States are the world’s leading executioners, according to Amnesty. Similar to Vietnam, Beijing declares data regarding the death penalty a state secret, and the scope of the use of capital punishment there remains unknown. However, China is believed to have carried out thousands of executions last year.

According to the report, 112 countries had abolished the death penalty in their legislative system as of the end of 2023.

EU Annual Report on Human Rights: Vietnam’s Civil Society Space ‘Shrinks Further’

The EU High Representative published the 2023 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World on May 29. The report highlights a significant deterioration of the human rights situation and the increasingly restricted space for civil society in Vietnam.  

Despite its election to the UN Human Rights Council for the 2023-2025 term, Vietnam’s achievements in human rights were minimal last year. Space for civil society became more limited while harassment, arbitrary arrests, and convictions of activists and bloggers persisted. 

Moreover, the EU report noted a comprehensive crackdown on environmental activists and human rights lawyers as they became targets of vague criminal allegations such as “abusing democratic freedoms,” which forced them to flee the country. At the same time, ethnic minorities and religious groups endured state harassment and intimidation.

The party-state nation’s press freedom situation has further eroded, as Vietnam slipped from its 174th position in Reporters Without Borders’s World Press Freedom Index in 2022 to 178th in 2023. Decree 53/2022/ND-CP, a cybersecurity legislation issued in 2022, has also restricted free speech online.

On labor rights, Hanoi has yet to rectify ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association, which would enable Vietnamese workers to form independent unions without prior state authorization and give them more power in collective bargaining with their employers.

At the same time, Vietnam still carries out capital punishment; the exact number of executions is not publicized. In a more positive aspect, the National Assembly, Vietnam’s parliament, is expected to amend its gender legislation in October this year, which will allow transgender people to undergo a legal gender change.

The report states that the EU has focused on promoting access to information, freedom of expression, civil society, and participatory democracy in Vietnam. Other forms of assistance include advocacy for human rights activists, fair trials, protection of labor rights, support for revising the labor code, and ratification of crucial ILO conventions.

The EU and its member states have financially supported civil society and organized events to raise awareness regarding the abolition of the death penalty, gender equality, ethnic minority rights, and children’s rights, among other things.

Khmer Krom Activist Denied Passport, Possibly Due to Activism on Indigenous Rights

Trieu Sieu, 35, an indigenous Khmer Krom resident in Tran De District, Soc Trang Province, learned that the Immigration Department of Soc Trang Provincial Police refused to issue him a passport because he is currently on the travel ban list. The official notice, No. 377/XNC, issued by the immigration department, stated that Sieu’s travel ban is effective between August 1, 2023, and August 1, 2026. It did not specifically say why the Khmer Krom resident is banned from traveling abroad.

A relative of Sieu, who declined to be named due to security concerns, Sieu was banned from leaving the country because he advocated on May 28 that the only reason why Sieu was banned from leaving the country was because of his advocating for the rights of the local Khmer Krom people. According to the relative, Sieu had distributed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, along with other activities to promote the rights of the Khmer Krom populations.

Sieu also used his social media account to denounce the authorities’ suppression of the rights of the Khmer Krom people, especially their religious freedom and land rights. RFA reported that in January 2023, the Trung Binh Commune Police, where he lived, summoned Sieu to an interrogation regarding his posting on social media. During that session, the police reportedly questioned him on his sharing of allegations about state repression of the Khmer Krom people.

Russian Foreign Ministry: President Putin’s Visit to Vietnam ‘At an Advanced State’

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko told reporters of the Kremlin-controlled TASS newspaper on May 30 that the arrangement for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Vietnam is currently “at an advanced stage.” 

Rudenko did not provide a specific date for the Russian state leader's trip, but earlier, on May 15, the Russian ambassador to Vietnam, Gennady Stepanovich Bezdetko, confirmed that Putin will make an official visit to Hanoi  “in the near future.” According to TASS, the Russian leader is also scheduled to travel to North Korea, and preparations for his trip are underway. 

Previously, Vietnamese authorities had postponed a special envoy's visit to implement EU sanctions on Russia between May 13 and 14. The postponement was considered a preparation for Putin’s visit before he went to Beijing to meet Chinese leaders on May 16. General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong invited the Russian leader in a phone call on March 26, 2024, and Putin reportedly accepted the invitation.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Thich Minh Tue: The Monk Who Walks and Moves Vietnam

Fulcrum/ Hoang Thi Ha/ May 31

“​While Thich Minh Tue embarks on his solitary quest for enlightenment and disavows any political agenda, he inadvertently amplifies public scrutiny and critique of state-endorsed Buddhist establishments. Even his alms bowl – the inner container of a rice cooker – is viewed as posing a threat to the “rice bowls” of thousands of state-sanctioned monks.

The reaction of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS), the country’s official Buddhist organisation, has been dismissive. It asserted that Thich Minh Tue is neither a Buddhist monk nor affiliated with any VBS institution. This defensive stance has elicited public ridicule, as Thich Minh Tue has stated that he is simply a Vietnamese citizen seeking to learn and practice Buddhist teachings without allegiance to any Buddhist institution.”

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