The Vietnamese government has dismissed a recent Human Rights Watch report about systematic police brutality in the country's justice system as false.
“Vietnam’s signing of the United Nations treaty against torture and human rights violations represented the country’s strong commitment to fighting the use and abuse of corporal punishment during criminal investigations and judicial proceedings and aims to ensure the basic rights of humans,” Tran Thi Bich Van, deputy Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in a statement Tuesday.
Four police officers being tried in Hanoi on September 18, 2014. The court on Thursday handed down jail terms ranging between eight to 17 years for them. They were convicted of beating a suspect to death during questioning about a dispute with his neighbors in 2012. Photo: Minh Sang
“Every act of torture or corporal punishment committed during investigative and judicial procedures is strictly treated in line with Vietnamese laws," Van said.
The report released by the US-based watchdog group said that police abuse in Vietnam occurs at an "alarming" rate.
“We found reports of police abuse in more than 44 of Vietnam’s 58 provinces, and in each of the country’s five largest cities (Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Can Tho, and Ho Chi Minh City),” the report said.
The rights group recommended that the government establish an independent police complaint commission, local-level internal affairs units, a tracking system to address allegations of abuse and ensure that interrogations are videotaped.
Last week, Vietnam held its first public hearing to consider measures to stamp out police brutality and make it harder for heavy-handed interrogators to resort to torture and coercion.
Truong Trong Nghia, a lawmaker who is also the vice chairman of the Vietnam Bar Association, condemned those practices as a threat to the integrity and stability of the nation.
“Torture still exists; [investigators] treat suspects like their enemies rather than their equals,” he said during a hearing held by the parliamentary Justice Commission last Thursday.
“Wrongful verdicts, threats and torture pose critical threats to the regime itself. The [victims'] descendants will hold us responsible,” he said.
During the session, Minister of Public Security Tran Dai Quang reported that 19 police officers had been fired for torturing suspects between 2011 and 2013.
He also said that 183 others had been disciplined for violating investigative procedures and regulations through dismissal, demotion or reassignment during the same three-year period.
Courts throughout the country heard ten cases involving 23 police officers accused of torture between 2011 and 2013.
On Thursday, a court in Hanoi sentenced a police officer to 17 years in prison after finding him guilty of beating a suspect to death two years ago.
Earlier, prosecutors had proposed the life sentence against Hoang Ngoc Tuyen, 34, former deputy head of the Kim No Commune Police in Hanoi’s Dong Anh District.
But still, the sentence is considered a pretty tough penalty that a Vietnamese police officer has ever received for the use of torture.
According to the indictment, Nguyen Mau Thuan, 54, was summoned to the police station on August 30, 2012 after quarreling with his neighbors over land.
After three hours at the station, his family was informed that Thuan had passed out.
The four police officers were accused of beating his thighs with rubber clubs, and placing pens between his fingers and squeezing them together.
Forensic tests discovered that Thuan had suffered three broken ribs during the interrogation.
Tuyen’s subordinates, Nguyen Trong Kien, Doan Van Tuyen, and Hoang Ngoc Thuc got jail sentences between eight to 16 years.
Miscarriages of justice have plagued Vietnam, prompting President Truong Tan Sang last July to instruct prosecutors to clean up the justice system by minimizing wrongful charges and strictly punishing police brutality.