Vietnam executes approximately 100 persons each year, mostly for drug-related offences. This, at least, is the figure reported in the official media. The real number can never be known. Since 2004, when the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, the FIDH and other international NGOs campaigned vocally against this inhuman practice, Vietnam declared that statistics on death sentences and executions would be classified as “state secrets”. Occasionally, information leaks through to the international media, such as the Associated Press’ report that three people were sentenced to death on 5th October 2011, just five days before the global community condemns capital punishment on the World Day against the Death Penalty.
Vietnam’s communist leaders refuse to abolish the death penalty, despite strong international pressure. Twenty two offences in Vietnam’s Criminal Code are punishable by death, including vaguely defined “national security” crimes that have been roundly condemned by the United Nations. This year, however, Vietnam changed the law. Following the Chinese model – as it also does for Internet censorship and repression of political dissent – Vietnam adopted legislation to carry out executions by lethal injections rather than the firing squad. The new law, adopted in July 2011, also allows relatives of the executed to retrieve their bodies for burial. Retired prison governor Nguyen Duc Minh justified the move: “Lethal injection will cause less pain and the bodies of executed prisoners will stay intact so it will reduce the psychological pressure on executors”. According to the state-controlled media, many policemen suffered trauma after completing their duty as “executioners”. So Vietnam continues to execute its citizens. But in celebration of the World Day against the Death Penalty, it can proudly announce that executions are “more humane !”