Point of View


For Week Ending 21 May 2006


The Case for an International Court to adjudicate on communist crimes against humanity


Doi-Thoai is now up to its 9th article on Communist Crimes in Vietnam, not without proper justification. Given the slow pace of change in Vietnam, since the Communist Party’s (CPV) 10th Congress ending on 24 April 2006, it is time to reconsider the issue of crimes committed by the Communists across the world, in particular those committed by the CPV against the Vietnamese people.


Since the end of World War II, the international community has faced atrocities committed by the Nazi regime that are beyond human imagination. Thus was born the United Nations Charter, the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Political Rights and most relevant to the situation now in Vietnam are the Principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal, 1950.


To quote two of these principles:

Principle I

“Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.”

Principle II

“The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.”


The crimes nominated in these principles are among others:


a.     War crimes:
“Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or  ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.”

b.     Crimes against humanity:
“Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.”

When we review the situation in Vietnam, since 1949 until the aftermath of the 1954 Dien Bien Phu battle, and since the end of the war in 1975, the CPV appears to have committed both war crimes and crimes against humanity, as defined under the Nuremberg Tribunal’s principles.

Recently the tide seems to be turning in favor of the creation of an international court to adjudicate communist crimes. Indeed on its 5th sitting on 25 February 2006, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe officially adopted with an overwhelming majority, resolution 1481 to deal with Communist crimes and dismantle its heritage.

Such resolution expresses unambiguously that:

“2.       The totalitarian communist regimes which ruled in Central and Eastern Europe in the last century, and which are still in power in several countries in the world, have been, without exception, characterized by massive violations of human rights. The violations have differed depending on the culture, country and the historical period and have included individual and collective assassinations and executions, death in concentration camps, starvation, deportations, torture, slave labor and other forms of mass physical terror, persecution on ethnic or religious base, violation of freedom of conscience, thought and expression, of freedom of press, and also lack of political pluralism.

3.       The crimes were justified in the name of the class struggle theory and the principle of dictatorship of the proletariat. The interpretation of both principles legitimized the “elimination” of people who were considered harmful to the construction of a new society and, as such, enemies of the totalitarian communist regimes. A vast number of victims in every country concerned were its own nationals. It was the case particularly of peoples of the former USSR who by far outnumbered other peoples in terms of the number of victims.”

The resolution went on to pointedly compare communist crimes to those of Nazi Germany:

“5.       The fall of totalitarian communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe has not been followed in all cases by an international investigation of the crimes committed by them. Moreover, the authors of these crimes have not been brought to trial by the international community, as was the case with the horrible crimes committed by National Socialism (Nazism).”

It then refers to crimes which are still being committed by present ruling communist regimes:

9.             “Totalitarian communist regimes are still active in some countries of the world and crimes continue to be committed. National interest perceptions should not prevent countries from adequate criticism of present totalitarian communist regimes. The Assembly strongly condemns all those violations of human rights.”

However, despite its concise analysis and strong condemnations, the above resolution has failed to mention the necessity to establish a proper tribunal to comprehensively deal with these crimes. Such resolution would go the same road that the Hague International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has gone in dealing with the Balkan wars and ethnic cleansing.

Given the resilience and continued repressive nature of the remaining few Communist regimes in China, North Korea, Cuba and Vietnam, there is no excuse whatsoever, not only for the European Council but also for the United Nations, not to proceed with the establishment of an International Court to Adjudicate on Communist Crimes against humanity.


The Nazis may have eliminated 6 million Jews in Europe, The Serbs a few hundred thousand Moslems in Bosnia. This paled in comparison with 20 millions killed by Stalin in Russia, tens of millions by Mao-Tse Tung in China, hundreds of thousands in each of the nations of North Korea, Cuba and Vietnam.

The number of people killed and injured by the various Communist regimes and the beastly cruelty inflicted on their victims vastly exceed those of the Nazis and criminals of the Balkans.

There is a perfectly strong case not only to seek justice for the innocent victims of Communism, but also to sow fear in the hearts of the Communist rulers in these unfortunate nations, and by the same stroke, to speed up the process of democratic change  within these nations. Leaders of the CPV may feel secure within the borders of Vietnam because they are above the local constitution and the law. But once outside of Vietnam, they must be made to feel the weight of international justice. Hopefully one day, national sovereignty shall be no longer the perfect protective shield behind which criminals the like of Do Muoi, Le Duc Anh, Pham Van Tra and clique could hide from international justice and the wrath of mankind.


Đằng Vân

22 May 2006