Lawmakers advise caution as Vietnam plans to let convicts trade money for life

By Thanh Nien Staff, Thanh Nien News

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 A file photo of Vietnam's biggest trial on drug crimes that was organized in the northern province of Quang Ninh last January. A total of 89 defendants stood the trial, 30 of whom received death sentence. Photo: VNA

The judiciary committee of Vietnam's National Assembly has asked the government to tread carefully on its plan to allow convicts in serious cases to escape death penalties by returning half of the money or property they gained from their offenses. 
The government needs to decide which cases the new rule should be applied to, in order to avoid creating a justice system where every death row convict can pay money to escape the penalty, local media quote Nguyen Van Hien, chairman of the committee, as saying on Tuesday.
In another proposal that has divided the committee, the government seeks to reduce death penalty to life sentence for criminals aged 70 and above.  
According to Hien, some agreed on the proposal, while some said it should also be applied to certain cases to ensure punishments do not lose their deterrence effect. 
Currently only pregnant women and women who are raising children under three years old are eligible for the concession.
Penal Code amendments
The proposals are a number of amendments that the government is drafting for Vietnam's Penal Code, aiming to reduce death sentences to "express the Vietnamese government’s humanity."
A recommendation that gained the consent of many members of the committee is abolish the punishment for seven crimes, including robbery and treason.
Lawmakers also agreed that death penalty should be kept for the crime of trafficking drugs only, while the highest punishment for possessing drugs should be reduced to life sentence.
Under Vietnam’s current drug laws, which are considered among the toughest in the world, anyone convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine faces death.

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