Vietnam changes law to get around EU execution ban

AP News
Posted: May 15, 2013 5:40 AM

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam has issued a new law allowing domestically produced chemicals to be used in lethal injections, a change that should enable it to resume the currently stalled executions of more than 530 people on death row.

The holdup was a result of an EU ban on its factories exporting chemicals used in lethal injections. The ban was issued because the EU regards capital punishment as a human rights violation. It has left Vietnam unable to execute a prisoner since November 2011, when the country decided to switch from firing squads to lethal injections on humanitarian grounds.

Vietnam's old law governing executions stipulated the names of the three chemicals produced in the EU that had to be used in lethal injection. The new law issued this week doesn't mention the chemicals by name, meaning local versions can be produced and used. The law will take effect on June 27.

In an interview earlier this year, European Union ambassador to Vietnam Franz Jessen said Vietnam might not have realized the practical implications of changing to lethal injections when it announced its plan to switch from the firing squad. He said the EU had hoped difficulties in sourcing the chemicals might have triggered a moratorium on the death penalty in the country.

Vietnam, a one-party state that routinely sentences government critics to long prison terms, is under considerable international pressure to improve its human rights record, which most observers say has gotten worse over the last two years.

Jessen suggested that stopping executions would have earned Vietnam praise among the international community.

"A moratorium would have been a positive sign at a time when we need positive signs," he said.

EU factories are the main supplier of drugs that can be used in executions. Several American states have also said objections from European factories were making it hard to find the chemicals.