Vietnam replaces firing squads
Hanoi - Vietnam's communist-dominated National Assembly voted on Thursday to replace firing squads with lethal injections after lawmakers sought to find a "more humane" method of execution.
"Deputies voted this afternoon to choose lethal injection as the sole method of execution, starting from July 1 2011," a spokesperson for the legislature said.
However, rights group Amnesty International (AI) said changing one form of execution with another did not address the "inhumanity" of the punishment and called on Vietnam to work towards the abolition of the death penalty.
Almost all of the 433 lawmakers present in the National Assembly approved the change, according to the VietnamNet online news service.
"Among measures to carry out the death penalty, lethal injection has more advantages and is feasible," it quoted the chairperson of the assembly's judicial committee, Le Thi Thu Ba, as saying.
A paper issued by a key group of deputies before the month-long legislative session said it was necessary "to find a more humanitarian method" of execution than firing squads.
"Injection of poison causes less pain to people being executed and their bodies stay intact. It costs less, and reduces psychological pressure on the executors," said the document.
Vietnamese authorities do not issue death penalty statistics but since the start of this year, 49 people have been sentenced to death and one person executed, according to reports in state-linked media.
Most death sentences in Vietnam are handed down in drug trafficking and murder cases. Last year the National Assembly removed rape and several other offences from the list of crimes punishable by death.
Legislators were divided during debates on the proposed change.
"Public shooting is necessary" for crimes involving national security, one deputy, Dang Van Xuong, was quoted by VietnamNet as saying.
Assembly member Pham Xuan Thuong, cited by VNExpress news portal, said firing squads were a deterrent for crimes like murder but he proposed that the shootings be carried out inside jails, "instead of having execution fields in every province".
Another legislator suggested the condemned should have the choice of using an electric chair, the official Vietnam News Agency said.
Amnesty said it has documented numerous accounts of lethal injections in other countries going badly wrong, and that all known methods of execution can be painful.
Amnesty said it welcomed the legislature's discussion of the death penalty and efforts "to improve horrific practices", but urged the government to intensify efforts to end use of the death penalty altogether.
One cemetery for executed prisoners is located near a new French school in Ho Chi Minh City, near a site where the death sentences were carried out.
The burial ground held dozens of headstones, often adorned with incense and sometimes engraved or bearing photos of the dead.