June 8, 2015
By Vu Quoc Ngu | June 8, 2015
Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Court will apologize and compensate as much as VND7.4 billion ($333,000) for Nguyen Thanh Chan for wrong imprisonment imposed on him over twelve years ago, said Chief of the Supreme People’s Court Truong Hoa Binh in Hanoi on June 6.
Speaking at Friday meeting of the Vietnamese legislative body National Assembly on its ongoing one-month sitting, Mr. Binh said his agency will pay the sum for the Bac Giang province-based resident who was released in 2013 after serving ten years in jail on murder charges under a life sentence wrongfully imposed on him in 2004.
Mr. Chan, who was freed after the real murder of the case voluntarily confessed himself, agreed to the compensation offered by the Supreme People’s Court although it is lower than the VND9.3 billion he asked, Binh said.
However, Mr. Binh did not clarify the source of the money for compensation as well as the responsibilities of police officers and court officials. According to the Vietnamese law, state officials have to pay for the losses caused by their irresponsibility.
On December 3, 2003, police in Bac Giang indicted Chan for killing a local woman and asked the provincial People’s Procuracy to prosecute him on murder charges.
On March 26, 2004, the Bac Giang People’s Court opened a trial for Chan, then sentenced him to life imprisonment given the fact that his father was soldier killed during the Vietnam War. In Vietnam, most of alleged murders are sentenced to death penalty.
Mr. Chan appealed the sentence, affirming that he was innocent. He said he was forced by investigators to plead guilty to killing the woman.
However, at the appeal hearing, the Supreme People’s Court in Hanoi upheld the life sentence.
Chan and his wife lodged thousands of petitions asking authorities to re-consider his verdict but nobody was interested until one day when Ly Nguyen Chung voluntarily pleaded guilty to killing the woman to steal two rings and VND59,000 in cash. On November 4, 2013, the Supreme People’s Procuracy issued a decision to suspend the life sentence given to Chan. He was discharged from prison the same day to be reunited with his family.
Two days later, the Supreme People’s Court opened a hearing for Chan’s case and canceled his life sentence.
Several police officers who investigated Chan’s case were suspended and tried for their responsibilities.
Chan is the Vietnamese receiving largest compensation for legal miscarriage which is rampant in the communist nation due to lack of basic mechanisms for human rights protection, including the right of remain silence, the presence of lawyers during interrogation, and video and audio recording during interrogation, and most importantly, the weak role of lawyers in protecting their clients. There are a small number of cases in which crime suspects have lawyer assistance but at undesired level.
According to the Committee for Justice under Vietnam’s legislative body National Assembly, there were 71 cases of legal miscarriage recorded in the period between Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2014.
Violations and wrongdoings during police investigation, prosecution and trial for miscarriage, adding weak professional capacity and corruption of state officials are main factors for violations and wrongdoing, said Nguyen Van Hien, head of the committee.
Torture and degrading treatment is rampant in Vietnam’s detention facilities and prisons which are under management of the Ministry of Public Security. As many as 226 detainees died in police stations between October 2011 and September 2014 and many of the deaths are believed to be caused by torture.