Vietnam’s Communist Regime Rejects Appeal of Death Row Inmate Ho Duy Hai Despite Various Shortcomings during Investigation

Activists joined with Ho Duy Hai’s family to call for review his case


Defend the Defenders, May 8, 2020

Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Court has denied the appeal of the Supreme People’s Procuracy regarding the allegation of murder of Long An province-based citizen Ho Duy Hai in the double killing of two local post staffs in 2008.

On May 8, after three days of the hearing, the 17-member council of judges of the Supreme People’s Court issued a decision to reject the appeal of the Supreme People’s Court. All the 17 members of the council, chaired by Chief of Justice Nguyen Hoa Binh, approved the decision which means Hai will be executed unless he will receive an amnesty from the country’s president.

Two victims, Nguyen Thi Hong and Nguyen Thi Van, two sisters working at the Cau Voi Post Office in Thu Thua district, Long An province, were killed during the night of January 13, 2008. Several months later, Hai, at his 22-year age, was arrested and accused of murdering the two girls.

Five months later of the incident, Hai was convicted of killing the two young girls although his fingerprints have not been detected at the scene and his time spending does not support the accusation.

His conviction was based only on his confessions which were made in police custody without the presence of his lawyers and there is solid evidence showing he was beaten and mentally tortured.

In addition, police investigators did not keep the tools believed to be used by the real perpetrator such as a knife and a kitchen board which was reportedly destroyed by people cleaning the crime scene on a day later. Police officers asked people to purchase a knife and a kitchen board from a local market to replace them.

It seems that Long An province’s police officers failed to determine the exact time of the murder, so they missed other suspects. One of such suspect, Nguyen Van Nghi, is a relative of Truong Tan Sang, then Politburo member of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam who later served as the country’s president in 2011-2016. Nghi has been hidden for many years, some sources said he is now residing in the US.

Back to the hearing on May 6-8, it was chaired by Mr. Binh, who may be promoted to higher positions in the next national congress of the party scheduled in January 2021. In 2008, Binh was a deputy head of the General Department of Police cum deputy head of the Investigation Agency under the Ministry of Public Security. In 2011, as the head of the Supreme People’s Procuracy, Binh rejected the appeal of Hai. So today’s decision of the council is not a surprise.

Hai’s lawyer Tran Hong Phong was invited to participate in the three-day hearing, however, he was allowed to present his defense for about 20 minutes of the beginning of the hearing and later was asked to leave the hearing which was full of policemen and Hai’s family was not allowed to enter in the courtroom to observe it.

The council’s decision has disappointed the political dissidents, social activists, and the general public. Being barred from the state-controlled media, they are expressing their anger against the regime and its court system in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. For them, Vietnam’s justice is likely a comedy (there is a comedy star named Công Lý- in Vietnamese also means Justice).

A few years ago, Amnesty International also voiced in the case of Ho Duy Hai. The London-based rights group has called Vietnam’s communist regime to suspend the execution of Hai and open re-investigation to avoid legal miscarriage in the case.

Legal miscarriage is not rare in the one-party Vietnam where the police forces are given too much power and torture is rampant.

In recent years, Vietnam’s regime has compensated a huge amount for a number of individuals victims of legal miscarriage who were wrongly sentenced to death in murder cases in which real killers showed to confess after years of hiding. The victims of legal miscarriage include Nguyen Thanh Chan and Han Duc Long from Bac Can, and Tran Van Them from Bac Ninh. They have been compensated for huge sums for wrongful convictions and long spending behind the bar to wait for execution.

Torture is still a systemic issue even after the country’s parliament ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2014. Dozens of criminal suspects die in police custody every year, and the number hits at least six so far this year, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics.