Re-introduction of the death penalty
We wrote to the Vietnam Minister of Health after the country formally reintroduced the death penalty by lethal injection in June 2013. More than 530 people were reportedly under sentence of death in January, with 117 facing imminent execution at the time that lethal injections were reintroduced.
No executions had been carried out in Vietnam since January 2012 following a shortage of lethal injection drugs, although the courts have continued to sentence people to death.
The shortage followed changes made in 2011 to EU regulations on trade in equipment and substances that can be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which restricted the export of barbiturate anaesthetic agents.
The Vietnam government researched and sourced replacement drugs and the law was changed in May 2013 to allow drugs manufactured domestically to be used in executions.
Vietnam uses the controversial three-drug protocol in executions, which risks excruciating pain for the prisoner if insufficient anaesthetic is administered. As the new Vietnamese law does not specify the particular drugs that are to be used, and the choice of drugs, their quality and constitution is unknown, there is a greater risk of this happening.
Our letter, co-signed by the Danish Medical Association and German Medical Association, called on the Vietnamese health minister, who is a medical doctor, to voice concerns about the three-drug protocol with her government colleagues and to ensure that the Ministry of Health ceases its involvement, as well as the involvement of all medical personnel, in executions.