Vietnam on “killing spree” – Amnesty

Nine drug traffickers were sentenced to death at this recent trial in Hoa Binh. Photo courtesy AFP.

Vietnam has been on a “killing spree” in recent years, emerging as one of the world’s most prolific users of the death penalty.

Amnesty International, in its annual death penalty survey, said that at least 429 people were executed in Vietnam in the three years before June 2016, many more than previously thought.

The figures indicate that Vietnam executed more people than Pakistan and Saudi Arabia during that period, and was third in the world after China and Iran.

“The magnitude of executions in Vietnam in recent years is truly shocking. This conveyor belt of executions completely overshadows recent death penalty reforms. You have to wonder how many more people have faced the death penalty without the world knowing it,” said the Secretary-General of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty.

Extreme secrecy

Vietnam’s use of the death penalty has been shrouded in secrecy because the government classifies figures as state secrets.

However, a report by the Ministry of Public Security recently offered an official figure of 429 executions between 6 August 2013 and 30 June 2016.

No explanation was provided as to what people were executed for, when their trials or executions took place, or details of the defence cases.

There is also no breakdown for the number of executions in 2016 as a whole, so Vietnam cannot be compared directly with other countries for Amnesty’s 2016 report.

The report says, however, that 681 people are currently on death row in Vietnam.

The figures have shocked researchers, who had not thought that Vietnam was executing convicts on anything like that scale.

The extreme secrecy of the Vietnamese government has raised concerns that the real figures could be even higher and that severe miscarriages of justice have been occurring.

“It is imperative that the Vietnamese authorities make publicly available a full breakdown of information on their use of this punishment in the country and immediately establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty,” said Amnesty in its report.

The organisation has long campaigned against the use of the death penalty worldwide, and publishes an annual report cataloguing the latest available trends and figures.

It said that publicly available information showed that at least 63 new death sentences had been imposed in Vietnam in 2016, the majority for drug related offences.