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Viet Nam: Dramatic rise in use of death penalty

Amnesty International UK Media Director, Lesley Warner, said:

'The recent dramatic rise in the use of the death penalty is seriously alarming. Trials are routinely unfair, with people unable to appoint their own defence counsel and trials falling far short of international standards. Amnesty International is seriously concerned that irreversible miscarriages of justice may result.'

The Amnesty International report, Viet Nam: The death penalty - inhumane and ineffective, finds that at least one third of all death sentences are for drug-related crime - of 931 people sentenced to death between 1997 and 2002, 310 were convicted of drug crimes.

The Vietnamese authorities claim that using the death penalty in cases of drugs offences provides a major deterrent. There is alternative evidence however suggesting that the increased use of the death penalty is leading traffickers to be more willing to use violence, and even to kill, in order to avoid capture, presenting a considerable danger to officials and civilian bystanders alike.

Executions in Viet Nam are carried out by firing squad, often in public, with the authorities encouraging people to attend. Relatives are not informed beforehand. One witness reported more than a thousand people attending the execution of seven drug-traffickers, who were blind-folded and tied to stakes, on the outskirts of Ha Noi in March 1998.

Amnesty International is urging the Vietnamese government to establish a moratorium on executions; commute all remaining death sentences; ensure that all trials meet international standards; improve conditions for all those in prison in Viet Nam; and to make public all information about the imposition of the death penalty.

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