New prosecution review analyzes performance of Vietnam’s criminal justice system in 2022

Hanoi, September 6, 2023 – Education for Nature – Vietnam (ENV) has released the Prosecution Review: Wildlife Trafficking Cases in Vietnam 2022, a reviewof the performance of Vietnam’s criminal justice system in dealing with wildlife trafficking cases in 2022.

The results are based on the evaluation of the 156 criminal wildlife trafficking cases which were logged on ENV’s Wildlife Crime Incident Tracking System in 2022. The results show that Vietnam continues to demonstrate a positive and concerted effort to address wildlife crime in Vietnam.

According to the 2022 review:

  • 95% of trafficking seizures resulted in arrests
  • 79% of wildlife-related criminal cases with arrests resulted in the prosecution of one or more subjects
  • The average prison term for wildlife criminals was 3.01 years

The Prosecution Review also provides a comparison of averages recorded before and after the instatement of the revised Penal Code in 2018 – a dream law that has afforded Vietnam’s criminal justice system a stronger legal basis with which to investigate and penalize wildlife criminals.

“The high arrest rate recorded in 2022 continues the positive trend in the criminal justice system that we have observed since the implementation of the revised Penal Code in 2018,” states Ms. Bui Thi Ha, Vice Director. The review shows that the average arrest rate has increased from 84.6% pre-revised Penal Code (2014-2017) to 92.2% for the period of 2018-2022 – the five-year period since the revised Penal Code came into effect.

Prosecution rates have also increased markedly. The average rate of prosecution for criminal cases resulting in arrests across the four years preceding the Penal Code was only 62.2%, while this average rate rose by nearly 30% in the period of 2018-2021 (90.9%).

The average prison term in 2022 (3.01 years) shows a decrease from the high point in 2019, when the average sentence was 4.45 years. However, despite the decline, the average prison term in 2022 remains more than twice as high as the 1.21-year average recorded in 2017, prior to the enactment of the revised Penal Code.

“In the past five years, the criminal justice system in Vietnam has made commendable strides in the fight against wildlife trafficking, as evidenced by the heightened number of arrests and prosecutions. Despite this progress, the persistent issue of wildlife smuggling through Vietnam’s ports remains a challenge that requires further attention,” says Ms. Bui Thi Ha.

Since 2015, a total of 34 wildlife trafficking cases were discovered at shipping ports in Vietnam, accounting for nearly 80 tonnes of ivory, rhino horn, and pangolin scales being confiscated. Unfortunately, up to now, only three subjects have been convicted in relation to these crimes. 

The review highlights the importance of holding accountable the leadership of wildlife trafficking criminal enterprises by using major seizures as opportunities to collect evidence and build cases against these perpetrators, in order to effectively eliminate Vietnam’s role in wildlife trafficking globally.

According to Ms. Bui Thi Ha, “dismantling wildlife smuggling networks requires law enforcement agencies to arrest network leaders and for courts to impose appropriate sanctions. While seizures at ports may impede the transit of smuggled wildlife, they do not represent the fundamental solution to eradicating such networks.” ENV expresses our gratitude to the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (U.S. Department of State) and to Humane Society International for their support in producing the review.  


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