HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A Vietnamese court sentenced four policemen on Thursday to up to 17 years in prison for beating a suspect to death, in an unusually harsh punishment for police brutality.
The online newspaper VnExpress said the Hanoi People's Court convicted Hoang Ngoc Tuyen, the deputy police chief of Kim No village outside Hanoi, of murder and sentenced him to 17 years in prison. Three other police in the village were sentenced to eight to 16 years on the same charge in the two-day trial.
The four were accused of beating to death a man in August 2012. The court said the man was detained at the police station on suspicion of assaulting a neighbor, and his hands and feet were handcuffed to a chair while he was repeatedly beaten with a rubber club. An autopsy showed he had three broken ribs and many bruises.
On Tuesday, New York-based Human Rights Watch released a report saying that police throughout Vietnam frequently abuse people in custody, in some cases leading to death. It urged the government to take action to stop the abuse.
The report documented 28 deaths and dozens of beatings resulting in injuries during arrests, questioning at police stations and pretrial detention in the period from August 2010 to July this year.
It said the real number of incidents could be much higher given constraints on the freedom of the country's media.
It said the victims include people accused of serious crimes such as murder, but most cases involved people accused of petty crimes, domestic disputes and traffic violations. In most cases, police accused of abuse were not disciplined or received very light punishment, it said.
"Police severely abused people in custody in every region of Vietnam," Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director, said in a statement Tuesday. "The Vietnam government has a human rights crisis on its hands and should investigate and start holding abusive police accountable."