Thursday, April 13, 2017

Deathly silence: Vietnam executes many more people than previously thought

It is the third-most-bloodthirsty country after China and Iran
IT IS hard to know how many people governments execute, as the most bloodthirsty regimes do not make the data public. Amnesty International, a pressure group, documented 1,032 executions in 2016, but believes the true number is much higher. The good news is that that figure represented a 37% drop from the previous year. Two countries, Benin and Nauru, abolished capital punishment, and others are moving towards abolition. In all, 141 countries have got rid of the death penalty in law or in practice.
At least ten Asian countries resorted to capital punishment last year, however. China is believed to be the most frequent executioner, though the number of people killed, and for which crimes, remain closely guarded secrets. The Philippines looks poised to reintroduce capital punishment—and in practice the police administer it frequently, by shooting drug suspects without the nicety of a trial.
Vietnam also shrouds capital punishment in secrecy. For years it was believed to execute just a few people a year. But a report from its Ministry of Public Security, published in the local media in February, said that 429 prisoners were executed between August 8th 2013 and June 30th 2016. That would make Vietnam the world’s third-most-prolific executioner, after China and Iran (see chart).
Vietnam has also continued sentencing people to death at a rapid clip—63 in 2016 alone, according to Amnesty’s count, which it believes is incomplete. Most of these were for drug offences.
Just two years ago a different course seemed likely. Vietnam abolished capital punishment for several crimes, including drug possession, producing or trading counterfeit food, and corruption—provided the accused returned 75% or more of the amount stolen. Even so, at least 681 people remain on death row. And while other countries hand out far more death sentences than they carry out, in Vietnam the gap seems to be alarmingly small.
This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline "Deathly silence"


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