An international group of legal experts proposed that Vietnam stop the death penalty attached to nine crimes, prompting public debate on the issue.
During a recent seminar addressing the application of the death penalty in Vietnam’s Criminal Law, organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), most experts came to the conclusion that Vietnam should gradually narrow the pẩmeters of the death penalty.
The application of capital punishment in Vietnam has been undergoing gradual changes for some time, but many do not agree about the direction of the reforms. In 1985 there were 29 crimes punishable by death. This number changed to 44 after certain amendments to the criminal law, but in 1999 was reduced back to 29.
Enforcement of the criminal law, however, has been another matter, as the number of executions have only been applied in a few cases, including murder, drug trafficking and smuggling of illicit substances.
The types of crimes punishable by death up for debate
According to the assessments of the legal experts attending the summit, however, the number of crimes legally punishable by death in Vietnam is still too high. They have recommended that the parameters of the death penalty be reduced in the country.
In their opinion, the death penalty should only be applied to the most serious of crimes, including murder, drug trafficking, treason and other crimes which pose a threat to national security.
The results of the legal panel were to cancel the death penalty for nine crimes, including child rape, embezzlement and brand infringement of food and medicines.
If their recommendations were to be made into law it would mean that only 13 crimes would be subject to the death penalty.
The proposal, however, has been a cause of public debate, especially concerning the removal from the list of capital offenses of child rape.
Le Trung Kien, from the People’s Police Academy said, “It would be a bad idea to eliminate the death penalty for child rape. This is a crime that causes irremediable psychological and physical damage on the victim, which can last one’s entire life.”
Judge Le Xuan Son, from Lang Son provincial court called the proposal by the legal experts “irrational”. He said that child rape cases are among the most heinous crimes and the death penalty is the strongest deterrent.
Dr. Tran Van Do disagreed, however, said that the creating harsh penalties will generate a fiercer penalty code, but would do little to make for more law-abiding citizens.
“Penalties that are too strict are not so effective. I think that penalties should be created with an aim in mind. Perhaps there are some penalties that deserve capital punishment as a deterrent. But if this is overused, we run the risk of giving no opportunities for criminals to mend their ways,” Do commented.