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Stop Vietnam executing 117 prisoners

As I type this, there are still a few hours left of Wednesday 26 June in Vietnam. Those are a final few hours of sanctity for some 117 prisoners on Vietnam’s death row. As of midnight tonight, a new law comes into effect which will mean that those 117 lives will soon be cut short by Vietnamese authorities. For today they are safe, but time is running out.

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Text VIETNAM and your full name to 70505 to ask the authorities to stop the executions. Over 14s only please. Prefer not to text?

Vietnam is poised to execute

From tomorrow, an amendment to Vietnamese law passed by the country’s National Assembly just last month will mean that death row prisoners can be given lethal injections with drugs produced outside of Europe, including those made in Vietnam.

The scene is set: authorities have built facilities for executing with lethal injections and trained staff to administer the drugs. And as of midnight tonight, they will legally be able to do so.

The authorities plan a mass killing. Vietnam’s Minister of Public Security told Congress just last week that 117 men and women on death row who have exhausted their legal appeals will be executed immediately. That is a fifth of the 530+ prisoners sentenced to execution.  We are extremely concerned that more deaths are planned, after National Assembly discussions around how to ‘resolve the situation’ of increasing numbers of prisoners facing execution. But the executions don’t have to go ahead. Text to ask Vietnam to respect human rights and refrain from executing.

Executions pending for alleged drugs traffickers and embezzlers

Use of the death penalty in Vietnam has been classed as a state secret for the last decade. But we know that death sentences continue to be handed out, and 86 people were sentenced to death last year alone.

The people on death row? Some of them are there on convictions of embezzlement, for trafficking drugs, for national security offences – none of which are considered ‘serious crimes’ punishable by death, under international laws around use of the death penalty for states that continue to execute, and so contravene international law.

Delayed thanks to an EU law that you campaigned for

Right after the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, USA – a death that shone an international spotlight on the unjust nature of the death penalty – Pentobarbital, the drug that was used to kill Troy, was banned from being exported from its Danish production base wherever it was deemed that the drug would be used to execute or torture, or contribute to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment. The manufacturers of Pentobarbital, a drug created to treat epilepsy, were happy with this. We were thrilled.

Until this time, a loophole in European law had meant that products not intended to cause death or harm could still be bought by states intending to use them to execute or torture. But in November 2011 European law was extended to prevent many kinds of EU-produced equipment, including ‘all short and intermediate acting barbiturate anaesthetic agents, including those which are not explicitly mentioned’, from being exported where they are deemed to be used ‘for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. And so Vietnam's nominated execution method was in short supply.

Without a lethal drug supply from Europe, Vietnam refrained from killing its death row prisoners. The last known execution took place over a year ago, in January 2012.

Ask that Vietnam doesn’t take a step backwards and resume executions - text VIETNAM and your full name to 70505. Over 14s only please. Prefer not to text?

Why change the law?

Just last month, Vietnamese authorities voted through a law allowing drugs for lethal injections to be sourced from non-European countries, following a shortage of available drugs after the 2011 change in EU law. Vietnam has reportedly produced its own lethal drugs to carry out the executions.

Lethal injection is the only legal method of execution in Vietnam. Up until three years ago, prisoners sentenced to death in Vietnam were shot by firing squad, a method that was superseded by lethal injection as an apparently ‘more humane’ way of executing (there are unconfirmed reports of traumatised shooters).

But the clinical appearance and medical associations of lethal injections belie a grotesque and painful death: the three-stage method of execution commonly used involves a sedative (which doesn’t always anaesthetise as intended), a paralysing drug (which can take effect even when the anaesthetic hasn’t – trapping a conscious individual in a state of paralysis), then a heart-stopping concoction (by which time the anaesthetic may have worn off, and a cardiac arrest suffered in horrendous pain).

Whatever the method used to execute, the death penalty is the ultimate irreversible, cruel and degrading punishment, which violates two basic human rights – the right to life, and the right not to be subjected to torture and inhuman treatment. Remind Vietnam's authorities that they are bound to protect life and refrain from torturing under the international human rights laws they’ve signed up to.

Text VIETNAM and your full name to 70505 to ask the authorities to stop the executions. Over 14s only please. Prefer not to text?

What happens to my text?

We will add your name, but not your phone number, to a co-signed letter which we will send to the Minister of Public Security, the Chairman of the National Assembly and the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Vietnam. We’ll also send a copy to Vietnam’s Ambassador in the UK.

The letter calls on the authorities to

  • Immediately halt plans to resume executions
  • Establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolish the death penalty
  • Commute all death sentences and reduce the number of offences punishable by the death penalty.

Not in the UK? We're sorry but our text action won't work for you as SMS short codes are different in each country. You can still send a letter or fax.

Under 18? We need to ensure you receive appropriate communications. Please include your date of birth in your text in the following format: DD/MM/YYYY

*Texts charged at standard network rate, no more than 10p. Please ask bill-payers permission. By giving us your number you agree to future communication from us by SMS. To unsubscribe, text STOP to 70505 at any time. See full terms and conditions

Prefer not to text?

You can fill out an online form, fax or write to the authorities in Vietnam. Contact details are in the PDF at the bottom of this post.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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