Vietnamese court sentences 3 ex-officers in detainee’s beating death

Bui Van Bich’s death at a detention facility is another example of a suspect dying while in custody.
By RFA Vietnamese
2023.12.28
Vietnamese court sentences 3 ex-officers in detainee’s beating death Three former police officers are tried this week on charges related to the beating death of a man at a detention facility in Vietnam’s Thai Binh province.
(Moi truong va Do thi)

Three former police officers accused in the beating death of a 49-year-old man were convicted on Thursday and given prison sentences, state-owned media reported.

The death of Bui Van Bich at a detention facility in Thai Binh province in 2022 was yet another instance of a suspect dying from “unidentified causes” while in Vietnamese police custody in recent years. 

At least 16 people died in police stations or detention facilities between 2018 and 2021, according to statistics collected by Radio Free Asia from Vietnamese state-owned media reports. Many of those deaths have been publicized by relatives on social media.

In Bich’s case, prosecutors began an investigation after his wife, Bui Thi Luyen, sent a criminal complaint letter to provincial and national prosecuting agencies that reported her husband’s unusual death at the Vu Thu district police’s detention facility. 

According to Luyen’s letter, district officers came to their home on Sept. 19, 2021, to request that both she and her husband go to police headquarters to answer questions about an allegation that her husband was involved in organizing prostitution activities. 

After taking their statements, Luyen was released and Bich continued to be detained. The family wasn’t allowed to visit him over the next six months, his wife wrote.

During a phone call with a district police officer on Feb. 20, 2022, Luyen was advised that her husband had been skipping meals, had lost consciousness and was taken to a hospital for emergency care. 

At the hospital, she was told that her husband had passed away, Luyen wrote in the letter.

Investigation and indictment

According to the indictment, prison guards Pham Quang Hung and Trinh Thanh Hung were on duty from Jan. 27, 2022, to Feb. 5, 2022, and directed other suspects and defendants to intimidate and assault Bich during that time. 

Prison guard Nguyen Trong Giap, who was on duty on Feb. 4, 2022, used his hands to hit Bich’s face and head while locking him against a chair during an interrogation, the indictment said.

Pham Quang Hung and Trinh Thanh Hung were arrested in November 2022. It was unclear when Giap was arrested.

All three men admitted guilt to the charge of “using physical violence” against a detainee, according to state media. Their trial this week was held publicly.

The Thai Binh People’s Court sentenced Pham Quang Hung to 11 years in prison, Trinh Thanh Hung to 10 years and Giap to 15 months, state media said.

Over the recent years, civil society organizations and international human rights organizations have condemned the increasing use of violence by the police against citizens in Vietnam. 

At a United Nations Committee Against Torture hearing in Geneva in 2018, the Vietnamese government’s representative denied that torture is used by police at detention centers and police stations.

Vietnam signed the United Nations Convention against Torture in 2013. The National Assembly adopted it in 2014.

Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Matt Reed.

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