Police brutality in Vietnam 'systemic and widespread'

File image of a policeman in Hanoi standing in front of the Vietnamese flag
Image caption Human Rights Watch said no police officers had been convicted over any of the incidents

A US-based rights group has urged Vietnam to investigate what it called widespread police brutality.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said it had documented 19 cases of police brutality in the past 12 months, resulting in the deaths of 15 people.

It said its findings raised concerns that the abuses were systemic.

The report comes in the wake of a high-profile case in which a man arrested for riding a motorbike without a helmet died in police custody.

Nguyen Van Khuong, 21, was stopped by traffic police in Bac Giang on 23 July and taken in for questioning.

A few hours later his girlfriend, who was waiting outside, was told he had died.

'Investigation needed'

Human Rights Watch said that in many cases those who died in custody had been arrested for minor offences, like traffic violations or petty thievery.

The group also accused police of using excessive force in public areas.

In May a 45-year-old man and a 12-year-old boy were shot and killed in Thanh Hoa province when police tried to disperse crowds protesting against a government industrial project.

"Police brutality is being reported at an alarming rate in every region of Vietnam, raising serious concerns that these abuses are both systemic and widespread," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

The group said that no police personnel had been convicted in connection with any of the incidents and called for a thorough investigation.

There was no immediate response from the Vietnamese authorities.

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