Many Vietnamese lawmakers back abolition of death penalty for 7 crimes

Many legislators have supported a Penal Code amendment in which capital punishment is removed for seven crimes

File photo of a lethal injection death chamber in the U.S.

The proposal that capital punishment be scrapped for seven crimes under the current Penal Code has been supported by many Vietnamese legislators.

>> An audio version of the story is available here

>> Vietnam legislators debate reducing death penalties; some suggest completely scrapping capital punishment

On the first working day of the 9th session of the 13th National Assembly (NA) that opened in Hanoi on Wednesday, Minister of Justice Ha Hung Cuong presented to the law-making body the proposed amendments to the Penal Code for discussion.

One of them is the abolition of the death penalty for seven crimes, including plundering property, destroying important national security works and/or facilities; disobeying orders in the military; surrendering to the enemy, which is applicable in the army; undermining peace, provoking aggressive wars; crimes against mankind; and war crimes. 

Reducing death sentences is Vietnam’s major policy that is reflected in recent resolutions on justice reform and the practice of criminal legislation, Minister Cuong said.

Many members of the NA Justice Committee and other lawmakers have agreed to the proposed amendment.

The Radio the Voice of Vietnam (VOV) quoted Nguyen Van Hien, chair of the NA Justice Committee, as saying his committee approves of the view that capital punishment should alleviated by cutting the number of crimes subject to death sentences, promulgating regulations that help minimize the application of the death penalty, and extending the list of defendants who are condemned to death but do not have their sentence carried out.

Tran Du Lich, deputy head of the delegation of lawmakers from Ho Chi Minh City, said that death sentences should be cut down but there should be a regulation on crimes subject to life imprisonment without parole.

If the NA approves this proposal, the number of crimes subject to the death penalty in Vietnam will be lowered to 15 from the current 22.

A number of deputies said capital punishment should be retained for the charges of undermining peace, provoking aggressive wars, crimes against mankind, and war crimes, as these top the list of the most serious counts.

Regarding some suggestions on abrogating capital punishment for two corruption crimes: embezzlement and bribe acceptance, Minister Cuong said the government’s policy is that the death penalty should be maintained for those convicted of corruption as the highest sanction.

“We are uncompromisingly combating corruption. Many measures have been taken but they have yet to prove effective. Therefore, a proposal for death sentences be scrapped for these two crimes, which are the most serious among corruption charges, is not appropriate for the time being,” the minister underlined.   

As for another suggested amendment that defendants aged 70 or older should be exempted from capital punishment, Hien said most members of the NA Justice Committee have rejected it, VOV reported.

In reality people at this age can committee serious – even extremely serious – crimes and they can be the mastermind behind criminal organizations, Hien said.     

If the government spares people of such age the death penalty, they could make use of the exemption to avoid punishment by law after committing serious crimes, he added. 

According to the agenda of the 9th session of the NA, the amendments to the Penal Code will be discussed in groups of delegates on May 28 and in a plenary meeting on June 16.

VnExpress said the amendments will be submitted to the NA for consideration in its next session in November 2015.

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