UN rights office criticises Vietnam over death penalty

GENEVA (AFP) - The United Nation's human rights office on Friday voiced concern over Vietnam resuming executions after a two-year hiatus in the use of capital punishment, warning that dozens more were poised to die.

"We are dismayed by the resumption of the death penalty by Vietnam," the office's spokesman Cecile Pouilly told reporters.

Vietnam executed its first prisoner - a 27-year-old murderer - by lethal injection on Tuesday, its state media said.

The communist country had put capital punishment on ice almost two years ago due to problems procuring the chemicals for lethal injections.

"Some 18 months after the last execution is reported to have taken place, this resumption represents a major setback in Vietnam's human rights record. We are also deeply concerned at some 116 death row prisoners who have exhausted their appeals and face imminent execution," said Ms Pouilly.

Vietnam had decided to stop using firing squads in July 2011 in favour of lethal injections, but was unable to procure the necessary drugs notably due to European Union export restrictions.

In May, it amended the law to allow locally-produced chemicals to be used.

Ms Pouilly said that UN rights chief Navi Pillay wrote last month to Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, warning of flaws in the country's statutes on the death penalty and calling for its abolition, but had failed to receive a response.

"We urge the government not to carry out further executions and to join the growing number of UN member states that have established a moratorium on the death penalty, or abolished this practice altogether, including 19 states in the Asia-Pacific region," said Ms Pouilly.

Vietnam should also declassify official data on its use of the death penalty, which is covered by state secrecy laws, she added.