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Policeman faces maximum 7 year sentence for beating a youth to death: Vietnam Committee denounces a climate of impunity in Vietnam

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PARIS, 11 August 2010 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) – Mr. Vo Van Ai, President of the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, an affiliate of the International Federation on Human Rights (FIDH) expressed outrage over inequalities in Vietnam’s legal system regarding the sentence facing a policeman who beat a 21-year-old man to death for riding a motorbike without a helmet.

“Vietnam receives millions of dollars from the international community to reform its legal system. Yet its laws are blatantly unfair, and totally incompatible with the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Vietnam acceded in 1982. Human life is worth nothing in Vietnam”, said Mr. Ai. “Under Vietnam’s spurious legislation, a police officer risks a maximum penalty of seven years for murder, a crime that incurs the death penalty for ordinary citizens… Even for student Phan Minh Man, the court showed no clemency (1)… The Communist Party and state are fostering a climate of impunity in Vietnam”.

Police sublieutenant Nguyen The Nghiep, 25, was arrested in the northern province of Bac Giang last week for “causing death to people in the performance of official duties” according to Tong Duc Toan, head of the Investigative Security Department of Bac Giang Provincial Police Agency. According to his statement, if found guilty, the policeman risks between two and seven years in prison.

Article 298 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code stipulates that “those who apply corporal punishment in investigating, prosecuting, adjudicating and/or judgement-executing activities shall be sentenced to between six months and three years of imprisonment” – in the case of “very serious consequences, the offenders shall be sentenced to between two years and seven years of imprisonment” (2).

On July 23rd, Nguyen Van Khuong, was stopped by Police in Tan Yen district in Bac Giang province for riding his motorbike without a helmet. Police confiscated the motor bike, took him to the station and allegedly beat him to death before handing his body to the family.

The death sparked off massive demonstrations in Bac Giang after the family took the coffin to the Bac Giang Provincial People’s Committee headquarters to demand justice.

(1) See our press release “Vo Van Ai calls on President Nguyen Minh Triet to lift the death sentence on student Phan Minh Man” (24 July 2010).

(2) Article 298 (3) also provides for penalties of five to twelve years in prison if the crime causes “particularly serious consequences”. The Bac Giang Police’s announcement seems to indicate that they do not consider the death of Nguyen Van Khuong to be “particularly serious”.

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