Friday, September 05, 2003

Dateline: Vietnam

Vietnam defends use of death penalty


Vietnam imposes the death penalty for only the gravest crimes and has reduced the number of offences that carry the punishment, a government spokesman said yesterday.

The spokesman was responding to an August 28 report from international rights group Amnesty International that said the number of death sentences and executions was rising in communist Vietnam, where executions are carried out by firing squad.

"In Vietnam the death sentence is carried out for extremely serious crimes and follows tight legal procedures in accordance with Vietnamese laws," Foreign Ministry spokesman, Le Dung,.

A recently amended penal code had reduced the number of crimes for which death sentences are imposed to 29 from 44, he said.

Amnesty International, which campaigns against the death penalty, said Vietnam had sentenced 62 people to death so far this year and carried out 19 executions, compared with 48 sentences and 27 executions for the whole of 2002.

The rights group had also expressed alarm over the rise in capital punishment for drug and economic crimes.

But the spokesman made no apologies about that.

"Recently the death sentences in Vietnam are mainly ruled for offences involving trafficking huge volumes of narcotics," he said. "This is an extremely serious crime which is condemned by the society and which needs adequate punishment."