Vietnam Reduces Sentences for Six Police Officers Torturing Suspect to Death
Vu Quoc Ngu - Defend the Defenders
September 12, 2016
Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Court based in the central city of Danang on September 12 reduced sentences for six police officers who were proven to torture Ngo Thanh Kieu, a suspect in a criminal case, to death during interrogation in a police station in 2012.
The court reduced the imprisonment of lieutenant Nguyen Than Thao Thanh from eight years in jail given by the first trial of the Phu Yen province’s People Court on April 15 to five years, and gave suspension to Major Nguyen Tan Quang and Lieutenant Do Nhu Huy who were sentenced to two years and one years in jail by the first trial.
The appeal hearing kept the 30-month and 27-month imprisonments of Major Nguyen Minh Quyen and Senior Lieutenant Pham Ngoc Man, respectively, and a nine-month suspension for Le Duc Hoan, vice police chief in Tuy Hoa city, for his “negligence of responsibility, causing serious consequences,” according to Article 285 of the Criminal Code. He was in charge of investigation of Mr. Kieu’s case.
The Danang city-based court rejected the appeal of the victim’s family which accused the cops of killing Kieu, saying their acts were ill-treatments but not murder.
The court also argued that the perpetrators were deserved lighter sentences given their good services in the past as well as their family’s contributions to the regime.
Lawyer Vo An Don of the victim’s family said the cops’ acts should be listed as murders and the perpetrators must be sentenced to life imprisonment or capital punishment for illegal arrest, murder, false case files and intentional injury.
On September 6, one day prior to the appeal hearing, Amnesty International France urged President Francois Hollande who visited the communist nation on Sept 5-7 to raise concern about police torture in Vietnam at talks with the local leaders. Particularly, the human rights organization called on the French president to raise the case of Mr. Kieu.
Hollande should speak up to support Kieu’s sister Ngo Thi Tuyet and her family, who have bravely sought justice for his death despite constant persecutions of the local authorities and thugs likely hired by perpetrators, Amnesty International France said.
The sentences given to the police officers perpetrator by the first trial did not reflect the gravity of the crime, the French human rights organization said.
“Human rights must not be sacrificed to trade and security deals. President Hollande must use his visit to call on the Vietnamese authorities to meet their human rights obligations under international law,” said Camille Blanc, Chair of Amnesty International France.
After the trial in April last year, Mrs. Tuyet and her family filled many petitions to Vietnam’s authorities in different levels to seek justice for her brother. Tuyet and her family have been object of a campaign of intimidation and harassment at the hands of the authorities and other unidentified individuals. Police officers have come to her home, offering bribes for their silence. The family has also received numerous death threats over the phone.
The state media reported widespread public discontent with the verdict of the first trial, saying the punishments were too lenient while then President Truong Tan Sang directed concerned agencies to punish the officers more strictly.
According to Human Rights Watch, police torture is systemic in Vietnam. Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security reported 226 deaths in police custody between October 2011 and September 2014. Police said illness and suicides were the main reasons for their deaths while their families and human rights defenders blamed police torture and ill-treatment for causing their deaths.
According to local activists, 17 individuals were killed in police station last year and the number has been seven so far this year.
Vietnam ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2014, however, many people have continued to be killed or suffer severe injuries when they were detained in police station nationwide.