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UN rights office criticizes Vietnam for resuming death penalty

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Friday criticized Vietnam for resuming the death penalty [press release]. In July 2011 the country decided to stop using firing squads in favor of lethal injections, but was unable to procure the necessary drugs largely due to EU export restrictions. In May it amended the law to allow locally-produced chemicals to be used. State media officials said on Tuesday that the country executed its first prisoner—a 27-year old convicted murderer—by lethal injection. OHCHR spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly stated:

We are dismayed by the resumption of the death penalty by Vietnam. Some 18 months after the last execution is reported to have taken place, this resumption represents a major setback in Vietnam's human rights record. We are also deeply concerned at some 116 death row prisoners who have exhausted their appeals and face imminent execution.
Pouilly urged the Vietnam government not to carry out further executions and to join the growing number of UN member states that have established a moratorium on the death penalty, or abolished this practice altogether, including 19 states in the Asia-Pacific region.

Application of the death penalty has remained a controversial issue around the globe, and the UN in particular has fought to abolish it for years. In March the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Christof Heyns urged [JURIST report] the Indonesian government to restrict the use of capital punishment to comply with international human rights obligations. Also in March UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the executions of seven people in Saudi Arabia as a violation of international safeguards on the use of the death penalty. The men were executed by firing squad after convictions for theft, looting and armed robbery. In February UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his call for global support against the death penalty [JURIST report], stressing that its application is inconsistent with the most fundamental human right principle: the right to life. A moratorium on the death penalty was first approved [JURIST report] by the UN General Assembly in 2007 and, as of December 2012, has gained the support of 111 countries, with 41 against and 34 neither supporting nor opposing.

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