The authorities of Viet Nam must immediately halt any plans to carry out the execution of a man whose case has been tainted by serious concerns of torture and violations of the right to a fair trial, Amnesty International said today. The organization urges the government to also promptly initiate an independent and impartial investigation into his allegations of torture and other ill-treatment to extract a “confession” while in police custody.
The family of Nguyen Van Chuong, a 40-year-old labourer from North Viet Nam, has raised the alarm over his possible execution after they were asked on 4 August to report within three days to the People’s Court of Hai Phong city to make arrangements to receive Nguyen’s remains. However, the family was not given information on the set date for the execution.
“The authorities of Viet Nam must immediately call off any plans to execute Nguyen Van Chuong. The case against him has been beset by disturbing allegations from day one, including that he was beaten and hung upside down during interrogation to force a “confession”. These are serious allegations that have cast a dark shadow on his conviction and demand an independent and impartial investigation. If the authorities go ahead with this execution, they could be arbitrarily depriving Nguyen of his life,” said Montse Ferrer, Interim Deputy Regional Director for Research.
Nguyen Van Chuong was convicted of robbery and the murder of a policeman in July 2007, alongside two others, and sentenced to death. Nguyen denies the charges and in letters to his family has said that he was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment while in police custody to make him “confess” to the murder. He alleges that he was stripped naked, hung and beaten during police interrogation. The authorities have reportedly denied his claims.
Additionally, state media reports have indicated that several people from his village were willing to testify that they saw him at the village at the time of the murder, 40 kilometres away from the crime scene. However, the Hai Phong City Court relied primarily on the police’s reports to convict him. United Nations safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty establish that this punishment can only be imposed based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts. Two of the witnesses from his village had also come forward and alleged they were physically abused by the Hai Phong City police and threatened.
In 2011, the Procurator General of the Supreme People’s Procuracy requested that the Supreme People’s Court quash the appellate criminal judgment and commute his death sentence. However, in December 2011, the Supreme People’s Court rejected the appeal.
“In cases where the life of a person is at stake it is all the more important that fair trial principles are rigorously applied throughout the entire process. The obvious flaws in Nguyen Van Chuong’s case demand that his execution be immediately halted, allegations of torture and other ill-treatment promptly and independently investigated and a fair review of the case granted. The death penalty is never the solution and with these allegations besmirching the case, it would be unconscionable to proceed with the execution.”
The family of Nguyen Van Chuong and his lawyer have not been informed of the set date of his execution, despite being clearly told that the execution order has been confirmed.
“It is impossible to even imagine how harrowing these hours must be for Nguyen Van Chuong and his family, who continue to be kept in the dark about the fate of their loved one. The authorities must end the secrecy that surrounds their use of the death penalty and immediately establish an official moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty.”
Data on the use of the death penalty remains classified in Viet Nam as a state secret. Death sentences continue to be imposed for murder, drug related offences and economic crimes, such as embezzlement. Reports of executions by media are rare, but Amnesty International believes that scores of executions continue to be carried out yearly.
Torture and other ill-treatment are absolutely prohibited under international law but remain common practices by Viet Nam’s authorities. Viet Nam has ratified the Convention Against Torture and is a State Party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). As a state party to these treaties, Viet Nam has undertaken to take all measures to ensure that no one is subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and that “any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made”.
When a death sentence is imposed following a trial which does not meet international standards for a fair trial, including the standards contained in Article 14 of the ICCPR, to which Viet Nam is a party, it violates international law, rendering its execution arbitrary.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The organization opposes the death penalty as it violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. As of today, 112 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and more than two-thirds in total are abolitionist in law or practice.