Advocacy: Open letters

Vietnam: grant Le Van Manh permanent reprieve from death penalty and investigate allegations of torture

In a letter to the President of the Socialist Republic, the ICJ today called on Vietnam to immediately halt the execution of 32 year-old Le Van Manh scheduled on 26 October 2015 and to promptly and impartially investigate allegations he was tortured by the police in order to extract a confession.

In 2005, Le Van Manh was charged with the rape and murder of a 13 year-old girl in Thanh Hoa Province.

He confessed to the crimes but later retracted his statement, alleging that he had been severely beaten by the police.

On 25 November 2008, the Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam upheld his convictions and death sentence imposed following a third trial.

He had previously successfully appealed the convictions and sentence imposed following his first two trials arguing errors of fact and violations of his fair trial rights.

“The execution of Le Van Manh would be a denial of the right to life constituting a serious violation of Vietnam’s international legal obligations and must be halted immediately,” said Kingsley Abbott, International Legal Adviser at the ICJ.

“Furthermore, the fact that Le Van Manh’s confession, allegedly obtained by torture, was relied on at trial strongly suggests that the legal process fell far short of international law and standards which, alone, is reason to grant Le Van Manh a permanent reprieve,” he added.

“After halting the execution, Vietnam must carry out a prompt, independent and effective investigation into the allegations of torture. If proven, the perpetrators must be brought to justice and Le Van Manh must be provided remedies and reparation in line with international law and standards,” Abbott further said.

As a State party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture (CAT), Vietnam has a duty to protect the right to life; the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and the right to a fair trial.


Many governments, the United Nations and civil society organizations, including the ICJ, agree that the death penalty constitutes a denial of the right to life and is a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, and is therefore never justified.

Countries where the death penalty is imposed must ensure, at a minimum, that it is only used in cases of “the most serious crimes” following a trial that meets the highest level of compliance with international law and standards of fairness.

In December 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution, for the fifth time since 2007, emphasizing that the use of the death penalty undermines human dignity and calling on those countries that maintain the death penalty to establish a moratorium on its use with a view towards its abolition.

Some 117 UN Member States, a wide majority, voted in favor of a worldwide moratorium on executions as a step towards abolition of the death penalty.

The UN Human Rights Committee, the supervisory authority for the ICCPR, has emphasized:  “In cases of trials leading to the imposition of the death penalty scrupulous respect of the guarantees of fair trial is particularly important. The imposition of a sentence of death upon conclusion of a trial, in which the provisions of article 14 of the Covenant have not been respected, constitutes a violation of the right to life.”

Article 15 of the CAT places an obligation on States parties to “ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.”


Kingsley Abbott, ICJ International Legal Adviser, (Bangkok), t:+66 944701345, e-mail:

Vietnam-Execution Le Van Manh-Advocacy-open letters-2015-ENG (full text of letter in PDF)

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October 25, 2015