U.N. rights office condemns Vietnam's resumption of death penalty

The U.N. human rights office on Friday condemned the resumption of the death penalty by Vietnam after the first execution in around 18 months was conducted Tuesday in Hanoi.

"This resumption represents a major setback in Vietnam human rights record," Cecile Pouilly, spokeswoman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, told journalists in Geneva.

Nguyen Anh Tuan was executed by lethal injection in a Hanoi prison after being sentenced to death for murder and robbery in 2010.

In a letter sent to the Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung a few days before the execution, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged authorities to refrain from carrying out capital punishment and to establish a moratorium on the death penalty.

Last June, the Ministry of Public Security of Vietnam said that executions would resume after the coming into force on June 27 of a legal revision allowing authorities to use drugs produced domestically for lethal injections.

The revision was aimed at breaking an embargo on the export to Vietnam of lethal substances necessary for capital punishment imposed by the European Union in late 2011 in an effort to persuade Hanoi to abolish the death penalty.

The embargo had prevented Vietnam from carrying out executions after it replaced death by firing squad with death by lethal injection in July 2011, making it dependent on imports from the European Union.

More than 500 inmates are currently on death row in Vietnam, including 116 with no option for appeal left. With authorities once again able to carry out capital punishment, Pouilly expressed deep concern for the inmates, saying they are facing "imminent execution."