7 April 2014, 19:18

Vietnam’s Death Penalty System Under Fire

Vietnam’s Death Penalty System Under Fire

By Lauren Murphy

WASHINGTON (VR) –Vietnam’s system of capital punishment is being scrutinized after several people convicted of banking corruption and other financial crimes were sentenced to death. Vietnam is one of only two countries worldwide that executes for those types of crimes; the other is China.

Vietnam is one of only two countries worldwide that executes for those types of crimes; the other is China.

In addition, the Southeast Asian nation has been trying to switch to lethal injections, but the European Union refuses to ship the drugs needed because of their use of the death penalty. Delphine Lourtau, Clinical Fellow and Lead Researcher with Death Penalty Worldwide Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago said Vietnam is one of only 22 countries in the world to use capital punishment last year.

Lourtau said the country stopped executions temporarily because of a shortage of lethal injections, similar to what is now being seen in states across the US, caused by the refusal of pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs to be used in death penalty cases. "In July 2011 a new law in Vietnam replaced the country's main method, a firing squad, with lethal injection."

There are "almost 700 people on death row" in Vietnam, Lortau added, the majority are for drug related offenses, some even non-violent. She said "it’s only a small minority of economic crimes that result in capital punishment in Vietnam. On a global level, it’s an extreme minority phenomenon. The only other country that carries out executions regularly for these crimes is China. And possibly also North Korea but because of the level of state secrecy, it’s impossible for us to tell."

According to Lourtau it’s not easy to get statistics from Vietnam either, because it’s against the law there to publish statistics related to the death penalty, a practice considered state secret. She said it is also difficult to tell where Vietnam is getting drugs used for lethal injections, a problem that is also occurring right now in the US, where some states are refusing to reveal the source of their drugs.

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