Experts advised the government of Vietnam to reduce the number of crimes punishable by death during a conference held on amending the Penal Code in Quang Binh Province on Monday.
“The common misconception about the extent to which strict punishments deter criminal activity needs to be corrected,” Tran Van Do, vice chief of the Supreme People’s Court, said during the talks organized by the National Assembly’s Legal Committee.
“Our laws must encourage rehabilitation and reform, which are effective in curbing the crime rate," he said. "The death penalty should only be implemented against those who cannot be reformed."
The Vietnamese Penal Code currently recognizes 22 crimes as punishable by death. That number was progressively scaled back from the original list issued in 1985 following amendments made in 1999 and 2009.
According to Do, Vietnam's courts sentence about 200 people to death, every year.
And an alarmingly high number of people spend time behind bars.
Over 70 percent of Vietnam's criminal defendants are jailed while they are being investigated and 80 percent are sentenced to prison time, he said.
Do and his team researched possible reforms and alternatives to incarceration, like house arrest and community service.
They recommended non-custodial sentences for underage criminals and those charged with minor crimes. They also proposed reducing life sentences for theft, embezzlement and violations of state regulations on economic management.
Duong Tuyet Mien, the director of Hanoi Law University’s Criminology Center, said the death sentence should be withheld for convicts over the age of 70 and those who have been diagnosed with a fatal disease.
The amendments are scheduled to be submitted to lawmakers in May of 2015.
Vietnam switched abandoned the firing squad for lethal injection in November 2011.
However, the EU's refusal to sell Vietnam the deadly serum led to a delay in executions until August 2013, when the country's death-row population reportedly hit 684.