Lawmakers discussed abolishing the death penalty for several crime categories as well as criteria for commuting capital punishment sentences to life imprisonment in Hanoi on April 7.

The topics came up as the National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee reviewed provisions of the revised Penal Code.

The revised Penal Code will consist of 26 chapters and 427 clauses. Eighty-seven clauses have been added and changes made to 370.

The revisions are expected to make the Penal Code more transparent and effective, said Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong.

One issue that generated heated debate was death penalty restrictions.

Nguyen Van Hien, Chairman of the NA Justice Committee, said most members agreed with the Government proposal to restrict death penalties by reducing the number of crime categories that will attract the final punishment.

It not only reflects the State's humanitarian approach, but will also further judicial reform, he said.

Under the revised law, the number of crimes that can attract the death penalty will be reduced from 22 to 14. However, several lawmakers said that for some dangerous crimes, the law should only consider commuting the death sentence to indefinite life imprisonment.

NA Vice Chairman Huynh Ngoc Son argued that the death penalty should not be abolished for the most serious crimes of breaching peace, waging aggressive wars, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Chairwoman of the NA Committee for Social Affairs Truong Thi Mai agreed with the draft that the death penalty is not imposed on criminals aged 70 and above, saying it will bring align the law with global standards.

However, Son disagreed, saying people in their 70s generally had the physical and mental capabilities to continue perpetuating crimes, including functioning as the head of criminal organisations.

NA Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung emphasised that amendments to the Penal Code should be in line with the spirit of the 2013 Constitution, particularly on people-related issues.

He asked relevant agencies to continue working on the draft before submitting it to the NA again.

Hien said that the regulations on abolishing the death penalty for certain crimes must be considered carefully.

He noted that for drug trafficking, law assessment agencies said have that the crime has become more professional with well-organised stages – production, storage, transportation and sales. Sentencing drug traffickers to death could act as an effective deterrent against the crime, he said.

Chairman of the NA Nationalities Council Ksor Phuoc said the draft law should restrict punishments for illegal drug carriers and impose the death penalty only for heads of drug gangs.

The revised law also regulates that criminals who cooperate with investigators and other law enforcement agencies and voluntarily hand over at least half of their ill-gotten money or property will be exempted from the death penalty.

The ongoing 37th session of the 13th National Assembly Standing Committee will close on April 10.-VNA