Hồ sơ vụ án Nguyễn Văn Chưởng và Hồ Duy Hải gửi cộng đồng quốc tế - Dân Làm Báo

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Hồ sơ vụ án Nguyễn Văn Chưởng và Hồ Duy Hải gửi cộng đồng quốc tế

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Tóm tắt hồ sơ bằng Anh ngữ về vụ án Nguyễn Văn Chưởng và Hồ Duy Hải, do một nhóm nhà hoạt động pháp lý trẻ ở Việt Nam thực hiện. Hồ sơ đã được gửi tới các đại sứ quán và tổ chức nước ngoài ở Việt Nam có quan tâm đến vấn đề án tử hình và oan sai trong tố tụng hình sự.

Nguyen Van Chuong:

Personal information

- Name: Nguyen Van Chuong [in Vietnamese: Nguyễn Văn Chưởng]

- Date of birth: March 28, 1983 – Place of birth: Hai Duong

- Arrested on August 3, 2007

- Sentenced to death on June 12, 2008 by the Hai Phong People’s Court in the first-instance trial for “murdering” under Point e, n of Clause 1, Article 93 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, and for “plundering property” under Article 133 of the Vietnamese Penal Code.

- Death sentence confirmed by the People’s Supreme Court on November 21, 2008 in the appellate trial.

- Death sentence confirmed by the Judges’ Council of the Supreme Court on December 7, 2011, according to cassation procedures.

- Accomplices: 
    + Do Van Hoang (b. 1985), sentenced to life imprisonment
    + Vu Toan Trung (b. 1984), sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment

- Younger brother, Nguyen Trong Doan (b. 1987), arrested on August 10, 2007 and sentenced to two years of imprisonment for “concealing offenses” under Clause 1 Article 313 of the Vietnamese Penal Code. 

Case summary

1. Accusations made by the police 

The investigative report by the Hai Phong’s Investigative Police Office alleged that: 

At 9pm, July 14, 2007, Nguyen Van Chuong, Do Van Hoang and Vu Toan Trung were travelling altogether on a motorbike (triple-riding) when they saw Nguyen Van Sinh, a police major of Dong Hai II ward, Hai An, Hai Phong, who was riding a motorbike on his way to work. The three, in their need to procure some money to buy heroin, decided to rob anyone they saw, so they attacked Mr. Sinh with their sword and knife. Trung and Chuong stabbed Mr. Sinh in his back and some other parts of his body. Mr. Sinh, equipped with a gun, fought back by shooting them. They then ran away on their motorbike, leaving Mr. Sinh badly wounded and dead afterwards. Hoang and Chuong threw away the knives they used to kill Mr. Sinh, while Trung’s sword was confiscated later by the police. The police also collected from the murder scene a gauze mask, a pair of slippers, a sword, and some of Mr. Sinh’s objects, including his gun, cell phone, raincoat, uniform and some blood samples.

On August 4, 2007, Nguyen Trong Doan, Chuong’s younger brother, met Trinh Xuan Truong (b. 1986), Tran Quang Tuat (b. 1982), Luc Thi Nhieu (b. 1970), and Vu Thi Men (b. 1987) in Hai Phong to guide them to confirm in writing that Chuong was staying in Hai Duong, not Hai Phong, on the night of the murder. 

The police’s investigative report alleged that Doan had instructed those people to establish false alibi to conceal his elder brother’s crime. 

2. Innocence claims by the accused

All the three accused Nguyen Van Chuong, Do Van Hoang, and Vu Toan Trung claimed innocence in both first-instance and appellate trial. 

The brothers Chuong and Doan said before court that they were tortured during interrogation until they admitted guilt. In some of his testimonials, Chuong managed to write “EC” [acronym for “ep cung” or extortion in Vietnamese]. He also claimed that some of the documents on the case were lost, including a written confirmation by the Tran Phu detention center that he had been seriously beaten and badly wounded before he was taken there.

Chuong and his defending lawyer requested the police to restore his call logs to verify whether he was staying in Hai Phong on the night of the murder, but their request was rejected. They also said before court that the police did not identify whose gauze mask, slippers, and sword were left at the murder scene, and the victim’s underwear, though deemed to be exhibits of the crime, were destroyed for some unknown reason.

One of Chuong’s lawyers, attorney Hoang Van Quanh, told the press, “My defence for Chuong is 23 pages long, and it raised 23 issues for the courts and the procuracy to consider, but it was rejected.” [1]

The defending lawyers said they were obstructed by the Hai Phong police who delayed granting them defense counsel’s certificates. It took them more than six months to be granted permission to meet Chuong for the first time. They were often denied access to the accused during the course of their duty, so that they had to send petitions to the Ministry of Public Security, the Supreme People’s Procuracy, and the Deputy Prime Minister. 

Nguyen Trong Doan, Chuong’s younger brother, who has completed his two-year prison term, said he was arrested for “concealing offenses” while he just visited the police station to submit confirmations by the witnesses. Following his arrest, all the witnesses changed their previous testimonials, saying they did meet Chuong in Hai Duong but they were not sure whether it was on the night of the murder. 

However, two male witnesses, Tran Quang Tuat and Trinh Xuan Truong, admitted later that they had to change their testimonials after some excruciating torture by the police. They said the fact was that they were with Chuong in Hai Duong on the night of the murder, which established an alibi for Chuong. [2]

Violations of due process principle and international human rights standards

3.1. Pre-trial detention 

As a detainee, during interrogation, Nguyen Van Chuong was compelled to testify against himself and to confess guilt. Evidence, though obtained as a result of torture, was still accepted. His lawyers were obstructed in the course of their duty.

Nguyen Trong Doan, Chuong’s younger brother, was urgently arrested when he visited the police station to submit petition for the release of Nguyen Van Chuong.

There are signs that the rights of the accused were not guarantee in pre-trial detention. The violated rights include, but may not be limited just to, the following ones:

- right to personal liberty and prohibition of arbitrary detention;

- right to legal assistance before trial;

- rights during the investigation, including presumption of innocence;

- rights to humane treatment and not to be tortured while in detention.

3.2. Trial proceedings

There are signs that the rights of the accused were not guarantee in trial proceedings. The violated rights include, but may not be limited just to, the following ones:

- right to a fair trial, including right to benefit from the principle of adversarial proceedings and the principle of due process;

- right to benefit from presumption of innocence;

- right to equality of arms;

- right to call and examine witnesses;

- right not to be compelled to confess guilt or to testify against oneself;

- exclusion of evidence elicited by illegal means, including torture or ill-treatment.

The above-mentioned rights in pre-trial detention and trial proceedings are guaranteed by international human rights standards, including General Comments by the UN Human Rights Committee, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), to which Vietnam is a signatory.

Violations of Vietnamese laws

Article 3 of the 2004 Ordinance on conducting criminal investigation stipulates that “investigative activities must… make clear evidence of crime and evidence of innocence.” 

Circular 28/2014 issued by the Ministry of Public Security identifies one primary principle of investigative activities as “to find and make clear evidence of crime and evidence of innocence.”

Article 10 of the Vietnamese Criminal Procedure Code stipulates that “investigating bodies, procuracies and courts must apply every lawful measure to determine the facts of criminal cases in an objective, versatile and full manner, to make clear evidence of crime and evidence of innocence, circumstances aggravating and extenuating the criminal liabilities of the accused or defendants. The responsibility to prove offenses shall rest with the procedure-conducting bodies. The accused or defendants shall have the right but not be bound to prove their innocence.”

In Nguyen Van Chuong’s case, the Hai Phong investigative police, however, failed to comply with these laws.

According to Article 65 of the Vietnamese Criminal Procedure Code, “participants in the procedure, agencies, organizations or any individuals may all present documents, as well as matters related to the cases.” Article 66 provides that “investigators, procurators, judges and jurors shall identify and evaluate all evidences with a full sense of responsibility after studying generally, objectively, comprehensively and fully all circumstances of the cases.”

But Chuong and his lawyer’ requests regarding evidence examination were rejected.

Opinions of the participants

Chief Justice Truong Hoa Binh, member of the Communist Party, said in a meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly that the Chairman of the Supreme People’s Procuracy had requested to commute death sentence to life imprisonment, but the request was rejected by the trial panel because “Chuong masterminded the murder.” 

“Chuong did not kill the victim himself but another subject did that. However, when the consequence arose, the one who masterminded the attempt must be held liable. I confirm this is not a wrongful conviction, definitely not. However, if the National Assembly has any query, we will keep considering this case carefully.” [3]

Opinion of the authors 

As final decision by the Judges’ Council of the Supreme Court was made, under current Vietnamese law, there is no way to reverse the death sentence against Nguyen Van Chuong, even if he may be wrongly convicted. 

The death sentence may be commuted to life imprisonment if the State President grants amnesty to the convict. But Nguyen Van Chuong and his family declined to make petition for commutation, insisting that he is innocent and should be acquitted.

For further information, please contact the authors of this report:

- Pham Doan Trang: doantrang2705@gmail.com;
- Trinh Anh Tuan: trinhanhtuan.cdtd@gmail.com;
- Trinh Huu Long: longtrinhhuu@gmail.com;
- Nguyen Anh Tuan: tuannguyen1407@gmail.com

[1] Tuoi Tre, “One more death row prisoner claims innocence”, December 23, 2014. Available at: http://tuoitre.vn/tin/phap-luat/20141223/them-mot-tu-tu-keu-oan/689115.html

[2] Lawyer’s defence for Nguyen Van Chuong and Nguyen Trong Doan 

[3] Giao duc Viet Nam, “National Assembly deputies resolutely queried five particularly serious cases”, March 13, 2015. Available at: http://www.giaoducvietnam.vn/Xa-hoi/Dai-bieu-Quoc-hoi-chat-van-quyet-liet-5-vu-an-dac-biet-nghiem-trong-post156396.gd

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Ho Duy Hai

Personal information

- Name: Ho Duy Hai [in Vietnamese: Hồ Duy Hải]

- Date of birth: July 6, 1985 – Place of birth: Ho Chi Minh City

- Arrested on March 21, 2008

- Sentenced to death on December 1, 2008 by the Long An People’s Court in the first-instance trial for “murdering” under Point a, e of Clause 1, Article 93 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, and for “plundering property” under Clause 1, Article 133 of the Vietnamese Penal Code.

- Death sentence confirmed by the People’s Supreme Court on April 28, 2009 in the appellate trial.

Case summary

1. Accusations made by the police 

The investigative report by the Long An’s Investigative Police Office alleged that: 

At around 7.30pm on January 13, 2008, Ho Duy Hai went to the Cau Voi Post Office to visit two female friends, Nguyen Thi Anh Hong (b. 1985) and Nguyen Thi Thu Van (b. 1987). They talked until 8.30pm when the Post Office closed and Ho Duy Hai asked Van to go to the market for buying some fruits. After Van left, Ho Duy Hai tried to rape Hong but she resisted, so Ho Duy Hai choked and hit Hong on her head with a chopping board, then cut her neck with a knife made of inox steel until she got dead. When Van came back, Ho Duy Hai killed her the same way. He went home after stealing some money, phone cards and jewelries of the two victims. A few days later, Ho Duy Hai sold the jewelries to a goldsmith shop in Ho Chi Minh City and threw away the phone cards stolen.

This description of the murder was based on Ho Duy Hai’s testimonials to the investigative police. 

The police failed to find the chopping board and the stainless knife allegedly used by Ho Duy Hai to kill Nguyen Thi Anh Hong and Nguyen Thi Thu Van. Those who tidied up the crime scene said they found a clean knife, but they got it burnt and dumped it away, and some garbage collector may have taken it.

However, the police insisted that Ho Duy Hai, in his testimonials, had elaborated the murder and admitted guilt, and that Ho Duy Hai’s testimonials matched the happenings; for example, his description of the stolen jewelries and the places he visited following the murder was accurate. 

2. Irregularities in the case

On March 21, 2008, the investigative police office arrested and charged Ho Duy Hai for “murdering”. On that same day, Mr. Nguyen Van Thu, one of the witnesses who cleaned up the crime scene, went to the local market to buy a knife and submitted it to the police, saying “it looks like the knife lost from the crime scene”. He also made a confirmation in writing that he handed the newly bought knife to the police.

On April 11, 2008, the Long An Police’s Department for Technical Criminal Investigation issued their expertise conclusions, stating that “the fingerprints collected at the scene of the Cau Voi murder on January 14, 2008… are not found to match Ho Duy Hai’s fingerprints.” 

On June 24, 2008, under police’s request, Mrs. Le Thi Thu Hieu, a mutual friend of the two victims, went to the market to buy a chopping board for the police to simulate the weapon. 

Both the newly bought knife and chopping board would later be considered by the Long An People’s Procuracy as the weapons that Ho Duy Hai used for murdering. 

3. Innocence claims by the accused

During trial proceedings, Ho Duy Hai kept appealing against judgments and decisions of the court. He has kept claiming innocence for the past seven years. 

Also, Ho Duy Hai more than once asked his mother, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Loan, to petition for him to be transferred to a prison outside Long An province, which poses a suspicion that he has been maltreated there. In such a prison visit, when Mrs. Loan asked her son why he wanted to move to a different prison, the Long An prison wardens – with at least ten people always standing behind Ho Duy Hai – interrupted and diverted their conversation to a different matter. Ho Duy Hai seemed to have avoided the word “torture”; instead, he repeatedly said “it hurts,” or “my body feels a lot of pain.”

At the first trial in the province, Mr. Vo Thanh Quyet, one of Ho Duy Hai’s defending lawyers, saying privately to the main attorney, “Please do all the arguing. It’s hard for me to defend Ho Duy Hai because I live here; all the State officials in Long An know me.” Even before the trial took place, lawyer Quyet told Ho Duy Hai’s family it would only be possible to ask the Court for a light sentence, not to claim innocence. 

Tran Ngoc Lam, a senior officer of the Supreme People’s Procuracy in Ho Chi Minh City, added to the mystery when, after the appeal court, he said to one of Ho Duy Hai’s aunts, “I’m sorry I had to uphold the death sentence for Ho Duy Hai. I’ve been under pressure. Please don’t blame me. Just blame the people who urged me to do so.” Mr. Lam grew up in Long An province, where he had established himself a high-profile state official before moving to Ho Chi Minh City. He died in 2013 due to a stroke, making it impossible for the private conversation about Ho Duy Hai to be verified or made an official court detail.

Violations of due process principle and international human rights standards

3.1. Pre-trial detention 

There are signs that the rights of the accused were not guarantee in pre-trial detention. The violated rights include, but may not be limited just to, the following ones:

- rights during the investigation, including presumption of innocence;

- rights to humane treatment and not to be tortured while in detention.

3.2. Trial proceedings

There are signs that the rights of the accused were not guarantee in trial proceedings. The violated rights include, but may not be limited just to, the following ones:

- right to a fair trial, including right to benefit from the principle of adversarial proceedings and the principle of due process;

- right to benefit from presumption of innocence;

- right to equality of arms;

- right to call and examine witnesses;

- right not to be compelled to confess guilt or to testify against oneself;

- exclusion of evidence elicited by illegal means, including torture or ill-treatment.

The above-mentioned rights in pre-trial detention and trial proceedings are guaranteed by international human rights standards, including General Comments by the UN Human Rights Committee, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), to which Vietnam is a signatory.

Due process violations

- The case has no witness who actually saw Ho Duy Hai at the crime scene.

- The fingerprints collected did not match that of Ho Duy Hai (and the police did not identify whose fingerprints they were). 

- The indictment was mostly based on Ho Duy Hai’s testimonials and fake evidence, including the knife and chopping board purchased at the local market as simulation of the weapons.

Opinions of the participants

Chief Justice Truong Hoa Binh, member of the Communist Party, said in a meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly that despite some minor wrongdoings, the nature of the case remained unchanged. 

“At the first-instance trial, the accused admitted guilt and said he had not suffer from torture or extortion. The trial court then decided that Ho Duy Hai is guilty. In the appellate trial, the accused said he did not commit the crime, but what he said was not made clear yet, so it did not change the nature of the case and he was convicted.” [1]

“On investigating the case, the Court has not found any basis for protest, although there were some shortcomings during the police’s process of collecting evidence.” [2]

Opinion of the authors 

According to the Vietnam Criminal Procedures Code, the appellate judgment of Ho Duy Hai can be protested against by the President of the Supreme People’s Court and the Chairman of the Supreme People’s Procuracy under cassation procedures. 

Once the judgment is protested and the protest is approved, the Judges’ Council of the Supreme People’s Court shall review the case and issue one of these three decisions: 

- to reject the protests and retain the legally valid judgments or decisions. 

- to dismiss the legally valid judgments or decisions and cease the cases. 

- to dismiss the legally valid judgments or decisions for re-investigation or re-trial. 

The Judges’ Council of the Supreme People’s Court’s decisions are final judgments and cannot be protested.

[1] Giao duc Viet Nam, “National Assembly deputies resolutely queried five particularly serious cases”, March 13, 2015. Available at: http://www.giaoducvietnam.vn/Xa-hoi/Dai-bieu-Quoc-hoi-chat-van-quyet-liet-5-vu-an-dac-biet-nghiem-trong-post156396.gd

[2] Ibid.
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