National Assembly (NA) members on April 10 agreed that wrongful verdicts still occurred despite efforts by all Government agencies and bodies to ensure that criminal proceedings were transparent.

According to a report presented to the NA Standing Committee, the NA Committee on Legal Affairs estimated that Government agencies dealt with 220,000 criminal cases during 2011-14 involving 330,000 defendants.

Investigations of more than 4,000 of the cases were suspended, accounting for 1.8 percent of cases taken to court. Among these, 71 cases were identified as wrongful verdicts, mostly involving murders, robbery, and rape. The report also pointed out that 260 people died in this three-year period during the investigation and detention process.

The amount of compensation given to defendants for these wrongful verdicts was about 30 billion VND (1.4 million USD), but the NA admitted the compensation was disbursed to beneficiaries at a very slow rate.

Currently, some of the main wrongful verdicts include the case of Luong Ngoc Phi from northern Thai Binh province who was wrongly sentenced to prison for 35 months in 1998 for appropriating public property. He asked for 22 billion VND (1 million USD) in compensation.

Nguyen Thanh Chan from northern Bac Giang province was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2003 for a murder he did not commit. Chan was released when the real culprit gave himself up. Chan is chasing compensation of 9 billion VND (416,600 USD).

The report noted that wrongful verdicts were made due to errors during the investigation, prosecuting and hearing processes. The NA also admitted the number of suspended cases was too high, meaning the system might miss the real criminals. It also said many people were wrongly detained and arrested.

Huynh Ngoc Son, Vice Chairman of the NA, noted that even though the number of wrongful verdicts in the past three years seemed low, each case could cause a huge level of public distrust and outcry.

Agreeing with this, Truong Thi Mai, Chairwoman of the NA Committee on Social Affairs, said the supervising role of the NA in this matter was important in restoring trust.

Other members of the NA agreed that the capacity of cadres, investigators and prosecutors at all levels was limited and in many cases, the rush to end a case led to incorrect sentences.

Kso Phuoc, Chairman of the NA Committee on Ethnic Affairs, said authorities in areas with a large number of wrongful verdicts must bear responsibility.

Chairman of the NA Law Committee Phan Trung Ly asked the NA to inspect how Government authorities dealt with wrongful verdicts and whether there were signs of cover-up.

Other members of the Standing Committee agreed with the report of the NA Committee on Legal Affairs calling for investigation agencies, prosecuting offices and courts at all levels to uphold Constitution 2013 and other resolutions of the Party and the NA in criminal proceedings.

It noted that there must be efforts to eliminate torturing for interrogation or during investigation.

NA Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung said the NA would look into wrongful verdicts and compensation.

"The goal is to ensure that no one suffers from being wrongly convicted," he said.
He said the draft resolution on the matter must clearly identify the responsibilities of officials who allowed wrong verdicts to happen.

The draft resolution will be discussed at the NA general session meeting at the end of May.-VNA