Cablegate: Investigating Bad Cops -- Some Progress

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Investigating bad cops -- some progress

Ref: A. Hanoi 2074

B. 02 Hanoi 2407

1. (U) Summary. The Supreme People's Procurary (SPP) has
proposed a formal investigation against the deputy chief and
two officers of a police investigation office in Quang Nam
province for their involvement in the 2002 death by beating
of a detainee. The investigation may mark a positive change
in the way in which allegations of law enforcement abuses
are handled by consolidating the authority to make such
inquiries at the national level to make investigation less
susceptible to political influence. End Summary.

2. (U) According to media reports, a preliminary inquiry
conducted by the national level SPP Investigation Office
revealed that on the night of July 14, 2002, local police
investigators came to the residence of Nguyen Ngoc Chau in
Thang Binh district of Quang Nam province and took him into
custody without a warrant. Chau was then allegedly heavily
beaten during questioning about his possible involvement in
a case of murder and property theft, and died early on July
16 on the way to a local hospital for treatment. A local
autopsy had declared that his death was due to "heart
3. (U) Alerted to possible injustice in the case, the SPP
requested the central military coroner's office conduct a
second autopsy, which lead to the determination that the
victim had actually died from beatings as well as having
suffered "serious respiratory debility" caused by violence.
Based on these results and its preliminary inquiry into the
case, the SPP then proposed a formal investigation of the
two police officers for illegally detaining a citizen
without a warrant and for use of corporal punishment. The
SPP has also now proposed a formal investigation of
Lieutenant Colonel Huynh Duc Cuong, deputy chief of the
local police investigation office, for having done nothing
to prevent the misconduct. Under pressure from the
provincial government and the MPS, however, the SPP
Investigation Office agreed to examine the Lieutenant
Colonel's involvement separately, in order to take into
context the "political situation in the locality."

4. (SBU) A deputy section chief from the Ministry of Public
Security's External Relations General Department noted to
Embassy that it was still "quite strange" for the national
SPP Office to become involved in the investigation of a
local level case. The MPS' investigation office is usually
more likely to take charge of such cases, he added, as well
as opining that the national SPP may have chosen to
investigate the incident itself to ensure fairer results.

5. (SBU) A deputy director of the Supreme People's Court's
(SPC) Judicial Institute confirmed separately to Embassy
that the national level SPP Investigation Office was now
supposed to take the lead in conducting investigations on
cases involving legal enforcement officials at all levels,
rather than leaving this responsibility to their provincial
equivalents. The objective is to ensure "impartiality" in
investigations of law enforcement staff, including those
looking into members of the MPS, the Procuracy, and the
Court, he claimed.

6. (SBU) Comment: A more assertive role by the SPP
Investigation Office in law enforcement-related cases could
be welcome, and may be reflective of a heightened GVN
determination to correct police injustices. In another
recent case, the Supreme People's Court reportedly requested
re-investigation of an auto accident in which the son of a
senior Hanoi police official had been cleared of wrongdoing.
The change in investigation procedures is twinned with a
National Assembly resolution earlier this year prescribing
procedures to obtain official compensation for victims of
police and judicial wrongs (ref a). The increasing - but
still rare - media attention given to such cases is also
welcome, as was the case in an earlier incident involving
prison guards (ref b). Nonetheless, the difference in
treatment between the two officers and their supervisor
suggests rank and connections still are influential in the
legal system. The legal and oversight environment for
criminal affairs is changing for the better, albeit slowly,
in a process that will likely continue for many years, if
not decades, ahead.

© Scoop Media

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