[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 8 09:32:25 CST 2004
TOBAGO & TRINIDAD:
Law Prof: Death Penalty 'short-sighted and hostile'
The Actions by Caribbean governments to retain the death penalty are
"ill-conceived, short-sighted and hostile", according to Margaret Burnham,
a visiting Professor of Law.
Burnham, who lectures at the Northeastern University in the United States,
was addressing an audience yesterday at a National Association for the
Empowerment of African People (NAEAP) function held at La Joya Auditorium,
Eastern Credit Union, St Joseph.
Referring to this country's denouncing of international conventions on
human rights and the amending of the Barbadian Constitution to make the
death penalty mandatory even after the Privy Council declared the
punishment unlawful, Burnham said this had caused "many of us in the
United States" to take "enormous interest in the plans to launch a new
Caribbean Court of Justice", which would be headquartered in Port of
She said while the court would provide an avenue for the resolution of
trade disputes arising from the Treaty of Chaguaramas, it must also
embrace "evolving global norms in human rights", including the "trend
towards the abolition of the death penalty".
"There is no other way. You cannot advance on one side and retard on the
other," Burnham added.
Vietnam wows rights advocates by puting death penalty up for debate
Long criticised by human rights groups for its widespread use of the death
penalty, Vietnam is now tentatively witnessing a debate on the issue, even
though most observers consider a ban to be a long way off.
This month the communist state is to host a European Union forum on
capital punishment -- something that until recently would have been
"The original idea came from the Vietnamese side," a European diplomat
told AFP, asking not to be named. "There are lots of positive noises about
the debate and we want to encourage that."
In a country where most of the progress in humans rights results from
constant international pressure, the move is highly appreciated.
"This is actually a very good human rights story about Vietnam, and there
are not so many of them," the diplomat said.
Vietnam has handed down at least 97 death sentences so far this year and
put 63 people before the firing squad, according to figures compiled from
state media and court officials.
No official figures are available. In January, Vietnam even made it an
offence to report information on the death penalty, classified as state
secret. The decision was however poorly respected and no one was punished
for reporting an execution.
An Australian man of Vietnamese origin was handed the death sentence for
drug trafficking by a Ho Chi Minh City court, an official newspaper said
International concern over the record is compounded by what is perceived
as an inherent unfairness in Vietnam's heavily politicised legal system.
Defendants are seldom able to choose their lawyers, who in turn have
little access to their clients. According to a legal expert cited by the
US State Department, more than 95 percent of those brought to trial are
"Routinely unfair trials in Vietnam mean that the death penalty is imposed
under conditions which may lead to irreversible miscarriages of justice,"
human rights group Amnesty International noted last year.
But signs of change have emerged since April, with plans aired to wipe a
number of charges from the capital punishment list, including so-called
economic crimes such as bribery and corruption, for which several people
are executed annually.
Justice Minister Uong Chu Luu told the local press Friday that he
supported the plan and would put the changes before the government, in
what he described as an effort "to catch up with the trend of democracy
"We will cooperate with relevant anti-crime organisations and agencies,
looking for public opinions and learning from the experience of other
countries before submitting the proposal," he was quoted by the Tuoi Tre
daily as saying.
Nguyen Duy Lam, a top justice ministry official, told AFP the time was
ripe for change.
"The death penalty for economic crimes is banned in many countries and is
not used in others... but is retained in Vietnam because of the growth of
economically-motivated crime in recent years," he said.
"Many other countries have changed their law, we should change ours."
Any such amendments to the criminal code would have to be approved by the
National Assembly, which usually follows Communist Party decisions, and
would represent a second major change to the law.
5 years ago Hanoi slashed the number of crimes punishable by death from 44
to 29, but in the interim only the methods of executions have been
Now, foreign diplomats welcome Hanoi's apparent shift to discuss the
ultimate sanction itself.
2 separate diplomatic sources told AFP that a senior member of the
Vietnamese government had let it be known to foreign officials this year
that he wanted to see the death penalty abolished by 2010.
"What is new is that there is, in effect, a debate," one overseas diplomat
based in Hanoi said.
Even if Vietnamese officials refuse to openly venture a timetable for
changes to the criminal code and the reality of a ban seems a long way
off, those lobbying against the death penalty are taking heart from the
debate entering the public domain.
Now, at least, the subject is no longer taboo.
Australian gets death penalty in Vietnam
An Australian man of Vietnamese origin will face the firing squad in
Vietnam for charges of drug trafficking, state media said today.
Tran Van Thanh, 39, was handed the death sentence by the Ho Chi Minh
City's People's Court on Friday, the Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper said.
2 of Thanh's accomplices, who are also Australians of Vietnamese origin,
Tran Van Viet and Pham Martin, received life imprisonment.
2 Vietnamese nationals, Pham Dai Nhon, 43, and Le Thi Loan, 28, received
16 and 20 years in prison respectively.
The 5 were arrested in June last year. Police are still hunting for 2
other overseas Vietnamese who were implicated in the case.
Between February and June 2003, the 7-member gang, of whom 2 are women,
trafficked heroin from Vietnam to Australia, the paper said.
Vietnam has some of the toughest drug laws in the world.
Anyone found in possession of 300 grams or more of heroin, or 10 kilograms
or more of opium, could face the death penalty.
Foreigners sentenced to death are, however, rarely executed.
In April 2000, a Canadian of Vietnamese origin, Nguyen Thi Hiep, became
the 1st and since 1975 the only Westerner to be executed for drug
trafficking and her case prompted a frosting of diplomatic relations
between the 2 countries.
Last July, an Australian woman condemned to death by a Vietnamese court,
also on drug trafficking charges, had her sentence commuted to life
Le My Linh was arrested on November 17, 2001 at Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son
Nhat airport as she attempted to board a flight to Australia. She received
the death penalty on August 28, 2002.
A court rejected her appeal but President Tran Duc Luong accepted her
clemency plea following intense diplomatic pressure from Canberra.
At least 97 people have been sentenced to death this year in the communist
nation and 63 have been executed by firing squad, according to figures
compiled from state media and court officials.
(source for both: Agence France Presse)
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