Vietnam to allow local drugs for executions

Vietnam said Wednesday it had amended its law on the death penalty to allow the use of locally produced chemicals, a move expected to bring a resumption of executions after a nearly two-year hiatus.

The communist country in July 2011 stopped using firing squads in favour of "more humane" lethal injections, but a lack of suitable drugs left a growing backlog of more than 500 inmates on death row.

The new government decree -- which will take effect on June 27 -- allows domestically produced drugs to be used in the lethal injections. Previously, the law mandated that the chemicals had to be imported.

According to the Justice Ministry, foreign exporters of the chemicals had declined to sell them to Vietnam after realising that they would be used for executions, according to the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper.

Vietnam does not disclose the number of executions it carries out each year, but rights group Amnesty International recorded five in 2011 and 23 new sentences handed out that year, mainly to drug traffickers.

The campaign group has said changing one form of execution for another did not address the "inhumanity" of the punishment and has called on Vietnam to work towards abolishing the death penalty.