Vietnam reduces the number of capital crimes.

June 19, 2009

Image of a shadow of a noose hanging on a cracked wall

Reprieve welcomes the news that the Vietnamese National Assembly has approved amendments to its criminal code.

The crimes of rape, bribery, counterfeiting of money and bonds, smuggling, hijacking of ships and planes, and destruction of weapons and military equipment are no longer capital offences.

The amendments, particularly the proposed inclusion of drug trafficking on the list of offences to be downgraded from capital crimes, were the subject of great debate over a month-long sitting of the Assembly.

Disappointingly, drug trafficking was ultimately excluded from the list.

This is the first time in 10 years that Vietnam has reduced the number of capital crimes, and even with today’s amendments 22 offences still remain punishable by the death penalty. Dozens of people each year are sentenced to execution by firing squad, most frequently for murder and drug trafficking.

Reprieve founder and director Clive Stafford Smith commented:

“Clearly, these amendments to the criminal code are steps forward. It compounds a recent trend of reduction in both death sentences and executions.

However, more progress can still be made. The death penalty remains as a disproportionate punishment to drug trafficking and other hazily defined crimes relating to national security. Vietnam has shown its potential for improvement but can show itself to be a beacon of progress in Asia by ending this inhumane punishment and confining it to history, where it belongs.”


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