August 25, 2014
Defend the Defenders | 25/8/2014
The Human Rights Watch said new Vietnamese government regulations on police investigations improve on past rules but fall well short of the deep reforms needed to curb widespread police abuses. The Ministry of Public Security’s new Circular 28 entitled “Regulating the Conduct of Criminal Investigations by the People’s Public Security” will go into effect on August 25, 2014, and supplement existing regulations. The circular will halt lawyers’ role in protecting their clients in criminal cases.
Mr. Tran Bui Trung, a son of jailed social activist Bui Thi Minh Hang, met with representatives of the Human Rights SubCommittee of the U.S. Congress’s Committee for Foreign Relations in a bid to promote international support for his mother and Nguyen Van Minh and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh, who have been illegally held by the Vietnamese communist government since February. At the meeting, Mr. Mark Kearney expressed his concerns about Vietnam’s human rights situation as many social activists have been harassed and imprisoned.
Regarding a trial against Mrs. Hang, Mr. Minh and Ms. Quynh, the Brotherhood for Democracy issued its statement to protest the indictments of the Dong Thap provincial People’s Court, saying the trial is poorly political.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Hang, during a recent meeting with her relatives before the trial scheduled on Aug 26, declared she will hold a long hunger strike if the court give the trio unfair sentences.
U.S.’s Senator Richard Durbin (Democratic, Illinois) sent his letter to Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang to ask for immediate and unconditional release of political prisoner Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay)
Four other U.S. congressmen have signed a petition asking Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to unconditionally free human rights activist Le Quoc Quan. The U.S. legislators also expressed their concerns over increasingly imprisoning of political prisoners.
Vietnam needs to end police torture during interrogation
Lawyer Truong Trong Nghia, in his recent article on Phap Luat online said the rights to have councel assistance when people are detained is enshrined in the country’s Constitution, however, investigation officers often ignore the rights. This led to rampant police torture during interrogation during the past years, he said.
Lawyer Nghia took two examples for police power abuse, one is the case of Mr. Nguyen Thanh Chan in Bac Giang province and the second case is Mr. Thach So Phach in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang.
Mr. Chan’s case is the well-known criminal case on which he was sentenced with a life sentences for the crime he did not commit. After ten years spending in prison, he was released after the real murder confessed his crime.
Mr. Chan is asking a compensation of VND10 billion ($470,000) for the losses caused by Bac Giang police.
Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience Reviews Activities of First Half and Discusses Plan for Second Half
Amid rising harassment of the Vietnamese communist government against political dissent, more and more Vietnamese citizens have asked for human rights and civil rights.
The Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience debuted on Feb 18, marking a historic moment on which former prisoners of conscience agreed that “Conscience freedom, like freedom of religion and expression, is one of basic rights of humanity. People should have moral and live in justice and truth, and work for society’s prosperity, especially for those victims of human rights violation.”
All 91 members of the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience are continuing to peacefully fight for human rights, democrary and freedom despite harrasement and threat of the government. No threat and danger can hinder our members’ activities. We are fighting for one government which respects human rights while Vietnamese to have all human rights that people in developed countries have, and Vietnam deserves to have these rights.
The Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience is determined to act to demand the Vietnamese communist government to respect basic human rights, including the rights to receive and give information, the rights for expression freedom, the rights for assembly, and the rights for religious freedom. It is fighting against the political monopoly of the communist government, and for free and fair election to form the state with three separate branches: government, legislation and justice.
Mr. Tran Bui Trung Meets Representatives of Human Rights SubCommittee of the U.S. Congress’s Committee for Foreign Relations
Mr. Tran Bui Trung, a son of jailed social activist Bui Thi Minh Hang, met with representatives of the Human Rights SubCommittee of the U.S. Congress’s Committee for Foreign Relations in a bid to promote international support for his mother and Nguyen Van Minh and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh, who have been illegally held by the Vietnamese communist government since February. At the meeting, Congressman Mark Kearney expressed his concerns about Vietnam’s human rights situation as many social activists have been harassed and imprisoned.
On Aug 14, Mr. Trung (aka Bo Trung), a son of imprisoned activist Bui Thi Minh Hang, met with representatives of the Human Rights SubCommittee of the U.S. Congress’s Committee for Foreign Relations in a bid to promote international support for his mother and Nguyen Van Minh and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh, who have been illegally held by the Vietnamese communist government since February.
Trung and lawyer Vi K. Tran, a member of the Vietnam Parth Movement, were received by Mark Kearney from Chris Smith and the Human Rights SubCommittee, who expressed his concerns about Vietnam’s human rights situation as many social activists, including Mrs. Hang, Nguyen Huu Vinh (AnhBaSam) have been harassed and imprisoned. Mr. Kearney shared sympathy with Trung when the Vietnamese reported a number of hunger strikes of his mother.
Mr. Kearney said he respected Mrs. Hang spirit, however, she should take her health condition into account, he said.
He informed that Congresswoman Chris Smith and many other colleagues, including Zoe Lofgren and Ed Royce already sent a letter to the U.S. government, asking it to pay attention to the trial of Mrs. Hang and her two friends scheduled on Aug 26.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trung plans to continue his campaign in Australia where he will ask local politicians and state agencies to act for his mother release.
Earlier, he met representatives of the Freedom House and the U.S. Department of State.
The Brotherhood for Democracy Declares to Protest Bui Thi Minh Hang’s Trial
On Aug 18, the Brotherhood for Democracy issued a statement regarding the upcoming trial of social activist Bui Thi Minh Hang and her two friends, saying the traffic offense is bogus. Traffic jam was caused by police’s improper work but not by Mrs. Hang and her friends, the statement said.
“We think that the police and the procuracy in Dong Thap province is fabricating the charges against Mrs. Hang, Mr. Minh and Ms. Quynh,” the statement said.
Protesting the indictments of the Dong Thap provincial People’s Procuracy, the Brotherhood for Democracy said the case is poorly political one.
The arrests of the trio were violations to human rights, it noted.
It called on international organizations to voice and demand Vietnam’s authorities to unconditionally and immediately free Hang, Minh and Quynh.
Hội Anh Em Dân Chủ: Hội Anh Em Dân Chủ Tuyên bố về phiên xử nhà yêu nước Bùi Thị Minh Hằng
Defend the Defenders: Hội Anh Em Dân Chủ Tuyên bố về phiên xử nhà yêu nước Bùi Thị Minh Hằng
Blog NguoiBuonGio: Hướng tới phiên toà Bùi Thị Minh Hằng.
One Young Man Dies after Being Beaten by Police in Gia Lai
On the evening of Aug 18, three young men were beaten seriously by policemen who found one of them without a helmet when they were riding on a motorbike. The policemen left without providing assistance for victims.
After being beaten by policemen with baton, Le Hoai Thuong lost management of his motor and fell on street of the Central Highlands city of Gia Lai. He received many injuries, including brain.
Thuong died on afternoon of Aug 19 in a intensive care facility of a city’s hospital.
Defend the Defenders: 15th Vietnamese Resident Killed by Policemen So Far This Year
Police Suspected to Prevent seminar of Hanoi Bar Federation
A seminar of the Hanoi Bar Federation on Circular 28 of the Ministry of Public Security was stopped due to intervention from the ministry.
Circular 28, issued on July 7 and effective on Aug 25, regulates investigation affairs of police. It meets strong protest from lawyers since it allows investigation officers to adjust and make reports on lawyers’ activities.
Lawyer Tran Dinh Trien, deputy head of the Hanoi Bar Federation said the renting contract of the place for the seminar was terminated unilaterally on the day of the seminar.
The agency providing the seminar place said it was told by the police to terminate the renting contract.
The cancelation was not reported in state-run media but was discussed widely online.
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam Bar Federation Objects Police Decree on Halting Lawyers’ Roles
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam to Have 20,000 Lawyers by 2020, up 2.3-Fold from June: VB
Former Prisoner of Conscience Truong Minh Duc harassed on residence place
Former political prisoner Truong Minh Duc is resided in Binh Duong province. However, his name was deleted on his family’s registered book by police who explained their act that he is not husband of Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh, the head of the family.
In his letter sent to the Redemptorist Church, he said he has been continuously harassed by authorities. Local police regularly come to inspect his family and try to halt its economic activities. They also threaten relatives, forcing them not to contact with his family, Mr. Duc said.
Binh Duong police have threatened to harass his family until he and his family to move to other places, he added.
Hanoi to Host TPP Negotiations in Early September
Hanoi will host expert-level negotiations on Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Sept 1-10 with participation of representatives coming from 12 nation in a bid to narrow differences on a number of fields, including intellectual property and state-owned firms restructure and taxation.
The meetings will also prepare for ministerial-level meeting.
These meetings are followed the meetings held in Ottawa in July.
TPP’s negotiations were scheduled to end in late 2013. However, countries still have not agreed on a number of issues.
Twelve countries named the U.S., Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Malaysia, Japan, Singappre and Vietnam are candidate members of the pact.
Activist Le Anh Hung Refuses Illegal Invitation of Dong Nai Police
On Aug 16, activist Le Anh Hung received a working invitation from Dong Nai province’s police on his denunciations sent earlier to protest the provincial policemen.
On Sept 19 last year, Mr. Hung sent two letters to Dong Nai police, on one he accusated Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai and on the another letter, he blamed the head of Dong Nai police and the chief of the police security investigation agency of the province.
Mr. Hung said it is illogical and illegal for Dong Nai police to summon him to work on his denunciations. The Dong Nai police is not empowered to work on his denunciations in the first letter, and regarding to the second letter, it is not logical for accused to summon the decunciator to work on the accusation, Hung said.
Mr. Hung said his family has been harassed during the past years when his and his wife accused PM Nguyen Tan Dung, Deputy PM Hai and former communist leader Nong Duc Manh.
Defend The Defenders: Một thứ “giấy mời” ngang ngược của Công an Đồng Nai
Imprisoned Activist Bui Thi Minh Hang Allowed to Meet Family Members Prior to Scheduled Trial
On Aug 19, illegally-detained social activist Bui Thi Minh Hang was allowed to meet her daughter Quynh Anh in An Binh detention facility in Cao Lanh town in Dong Thap province.
Ms. Quynh Anh informed that her mother conducted four hunger strikes during her detention started in February this year, and her health is deteriorated very much.
“My mother told me that if the upcoming trial becomes unfair she will conduct long hunger strike. Death will also be a method of protest, she said.”
The 15-minute visit was the first meeting of Mrs. Hang with her relatives since being illegally arrested by Dong Thap police on Feb 11.
Mrs. Hang, together with Mr. Van Minh and Ms. Thuy Quynh will face a trial on Aug 26 on bogus traffic offence according to Article 245 of the Criminal Code.
Fb Nguyễn Bắc Truyển: Thông tin mới nhất về chị Bùi Thị Minh Hằng
Traders in Nghe An Evicted from Local Market
Hom market in Hop Thanh commune in Yen Thanh district in Nghe An province was built from foreign aids. However, the local retailers have been forced to pay large fees to the commune’s authorities.
High fees have triggered disappointment from traders, who asked the local authorities to lower fees.
On Aug 11, local cadres and policemen evicted traders from their stands in the market.
Radio Chân Trời Mới: Tiểu thương Nghệ An bị công an cưỡng chế
Tuổi trẻ: Đảm bảo quyền tự do kinh doanh của dân
U.S. Senator Calls for Freedom of Dieu Cay
On Aug 20, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (Democrat, Illinois) sent a letter to Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang to demand for immediate and unconditional release of blogger Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay).
“I write this letter to you to ask you free Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) on the occasion of Vietnam’s national day. The release should receive sympathy from American citizens who are concerned about Mr. Hai’s imprisonment,” he wrote.
Senator Durbin is a long-term senior senator. Hesits on the Senate Judiciary, Appropriations, Foreign Relations and Rules Committees. He is the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights and the Appropriations Committee’s Defense subcommittee.
He has been concerned about Mr. Hai’s case for years and often voiced for his release.
Mr. Hai’s freedom is the highest priority of Vietnamese activists’ campaign, after the communist government released Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu earlier this year, said Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thanh, head of the U.S.-based Boat People SOS.
Vietnam: Police Reforms Fall Short: Human Rights Watch
New Vietnamese government regulations on police investigations improve on past rules but fall well short of the deep reforms needed to curb widespread police abuses, Human Rights Watch said today.
The Ministry of Public Security’s new Circular 28 entitled “Regulating the Conduct of Criminal Investigations by the People’s Public Security” will go into effect on August 25, 2014, and supplement existing regulations.
“Abuses by Vietnam’s police have grown rampant in recent years because the government has failed to rein in officials who violate rights,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “If there is political will to seriously enforce them, then these new police regulations could start a process of ensuring police abuses are investigated and prosecuted.”
Circular 28 makes a number of positive changes over existing regulations. It sets out that the first principle for conducting a police investigation is to “comply with the Constitution and laws; respect the interests of the State, human rights, and the rights and legitimate interests of offices, organizations and individuals” (article 4). The Circular provides clarification for implementation of the existing regulation, Ordinance 23 on the “Organization of Criminal Investigation,” which makes no mention of “human rights” or the need for the rights and interests of individuals to guide investigations. Circular 28 also prohibits police investigators “from obtaining coerced statements or coercively planting statements, or using corporal punishment in any form” (article 31). It also prohibits investigators from “ask[ing] or harass[ing] for any favor or benefit in any form from the accused person, the detainee or their loved ones, or any individual, office or organizations related to the case” (article 31).
Circular 28 also requires that police officers tasked with investigation work “take responsibility before their superiors and before the law for all activities and decisions they make” (article 4), which may improve accountability for actions taken. However, clarification is needed from the Ministry of Public Security that “responsibility before the law” should not be overridden by “responsibility before their superiors,” especially when superiors may have engaged in abuses.
Circular 28 also contains a number of provisions that could bring some accountability to the inspection of detention centers, and actions to resolve complaints and accusations of police misconduct and abuses.
“If the Vietnamese government is serious about ending police abuses, Circular 28 could provide a good start,” Robertson said. “But no one should assume that progress can be made unless top levels of the government are wholly committed to ensuring effective police reform.”
Problematic Regulations; Due Process Concerns
Circular 28 also contains a number of highly problematic regulations. For example, its provisions place too much emphasis on the role of the commune police, who are the least professional of the country’s police. It is not evident that the commune police can effectively fulfill their specified responsibilities under the Circular, including “carry[ing] out the preliminary verification of the crime in order to categorize the case” (article 27) and “taking statements” (article 28).
The commune police have the least resources and training in handling suspects and interrogations and have frequently been implicated in beating suspects in custody. Assigning them investigation tasks with vague instructions merely facilitates the possibility they may use abusive methods to obtain confessions and evidence.
The Circular also uses language that presumes criminality, such as by referring to investigation suspects as “criminals” (nguoi pham toi) (article 28). This raises concerns about the presumption of innocence before the law of individuals not yet found guilty by a court.
Circular 28 constricts rather than expands the role of defense lawyers, who are crucial for protecting the due process rights of criminal suspects. Under article 38, lawyers and legal assistants may be subject to disciplinary measures for “carrying out activities that prevent or cause difficulties to investigation work such as… preventing [someone from giving] a statement, disclosing secrets… or filing baseless complaints or petitions.” Circular 28 even seems to encourage police investigators to “collect evidence and documents that prove the act of causing difficulties to their investigation work” by making use of all methods at their disposal including “sound and video recordings and other means.” These provisions on legal counsel give too much power to police investigators to arbitrarily decide which defense activities are appropriate and which should be punished.
On August 7, the Vietnam Bar Federation, the national bar association representing lawyers throughout the country, sent a letter to Public Security Minister Tran Dai Quang requesting that the Ministry of Public Security abolish or amend article 38. According to the bar federation, the article treats defense counsel as unequal to police investigators, which may lead to abuses of power. On August 16, the Hanoi Bar Association planned a conference to discuss Circular 28. However, the conference was cancelled at the last minute after the police intervened with the managers of the rented venue, which then told the lawyers that it had become unavailable.
“Lawyers should not have to struggle to meet to discuss new regulations that will affect them and their clients,” Robertson said. “Vietnam can’t expect to become a country that upholds the rule of law if it obstructs lawyers from doing their jobs.”
Joint Statement of Vietnam Civil Societies on Coming Trial of Bui Thi Minh Hang, Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh and Nguyen Van Minh
On Aug 21, 21 unsanctioned civil societies issued a joint statement on the coming trial of Bui Thi Minh Hang, Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh and Nguyen Van Minh, demanding the communist government to immediately release the trio and saying their arrests and detentions were illegal.
The case is poorly political aiming to suppress peaceful activists who fight for the rule of law.
In their joint statement, the independent bodies said “The unjustified beating and detention and then the illegal proceedings act not only as a serious human rights abuses, but also labeled the regime falsity. It is the actual human rights situation in Vietnam, not as deceitful allegations of any official of the ruling Communists when they answered the question and the public criticism worldwide.”
They urged Vietnam compatriots and democracy movement at home and abroad lay heads together and perseveringly struggle (with the help of democratic countries and international human rights bodies ) for the legal institutions in accordance with the standards of civilized humanity, a legislative system is no longer a tool in the hands of the ruling Communist dictatorship.
Vietnam Bar Federation Objects Police Circular on Halting Lawyers’ Roles
The Vietnam Bar Federation (VBF) has opposed the recent circular of the Ministry of Public Security, asking the ministry to abolish or amend part of the legal document which would halt the roles of lawyers in defending their clients, state media reported.
Circular 28 of the Ministry of Public Security has empowered investigation officers to adjust the activities of lawyers, said Phan Trung Hoai, head of the VBF’s Committee for Lawyers’ Protection.
According to Article 38 of the circular, investigation officers have too much power which may lead to abuse while the rights of lawyers were narrowed, Mr. Hoai said.
Lawyers and legal assistants may be subject to disciplinary measures for “carrying out activities that prevent or cause difficulties to investigation work such as… preventing [someone from giving] a statement, disclosing secrets… or filing baseless complaints or petitions, the article said.
Police investigators are also allowed to “collect evidence and documents that prove the act of causing difficulties to their investigation work” by making use of all methods at their disposal including “sound and video recordings and other means.”
These provisions on legal counsel give too much power to police investigators to arbitrarily decide which defense activities are appropriate and which should be punished.
With the circular, the ministry allows investigating officers to make films and record lawyers’ activities during working with their clients while the lawyers are banned to use cameras, recorders or other device.
In his interview to the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC), prominent lawyer Tran Dinh Trien said the decree is illegal since it puts investigating officers over lawyers.
In communist Vietnam, lawyers have limited power in protecting their clients. In many cases, especially political ones, lawyers are facing difficulties in meeting with their clients in privacy and their defense statements have little impacts on the jury’s final decisions in trials.
Many political trials ended after a few hours of hearing and the accused are often given heavy sentences.
The Human Rights Watch said Article 38 contains a number of controversial issues, including allowing bad trained policemen in the commune level to conduct preliminary investigations.
Dong Nai Resident Tortured by Policemen while Debating on Traffic Regulations
Mr. Nguyen The Trinh in Nhon Trach 2 in Dong Nai province reported that on Aug 21, he was handcuffted and beaten by local policemen in the police station after he and policemen debated on local street on traffic regulations.
Trinh said in order to avoid being collided with a tractor, he was forced to drive his motorbike on a lane for automobile. The policemen catched him and wanted to fine him for the violation, however, he refused and demanded the policemen to show video for his fault.
After short debating, the policemen took him to the police station where they beat him seriously.
There is increasing number of cases on which policemen tortured local residents for minor faults. Many of them died during detention period.
In 2012, Mr. Ngo Thanh Kieu died after a five-day torture of local policemen.
EC President to Visit Vietnam to Strengthen Bilateral Ties
EC’s President José Manuel Durão Barroso will visit Vietnam on Aug 25-26 in a bid to deepen cooperation with the communist nation
He is scheduled to talks with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on measures to enhance bilateral multifaceted cooperation, especially in economics and trade, particularly on negotiations on Free Trade Agreement which is expected to boost bilateral trade.
International human rights bodies have launched a campaign to urge the EU to take Vietnam’s human rights situation into account when negotiate with the communist government amid increasing political crackdown to suppress dissent.
On Aug 7, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organization Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) submitted a complaint to the EU Ombudsperson, asking her to address the European Commission’s refusal to take human rights into account in negotiations for trade and investment agreements with Vietnam.
According to the FIDH, negotiations on the VEFTA are taking place against a backdrop of intensifying repression in Vietnam. In a fierce crackdown on freedom of expression, Vietnam prosecuted and imprisoned at least 65 bloggers and activists in 2013, and at least 14 more have been arrested in the first half of 2014, it said.
U.S. Congress Members Call for Release of Vietnam Activist Lawyer
Four members of the U.S. Houses of Representatives have sent a letter to Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to call for an immediate release of dissident lawyer Le Quoc Quan who was sentenced to 30 months in jail for tax evasion.
Zoe Lofgren, Alan Lowenthal, Gerry Connolly, and Loretta Sanchez said in the letter publicized on Aug 22 that the Vietnamese government needs to release the prominent activist unconditionally.
They said that Mr. Quan, who was arrested since Sept 2012, is being “wrongfully held for the peaceful expression of his views.”
Vietnam needs to release the lawyer to ensure its commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which it signed.
The letter quoted Secretary of State John Kerry as saying last December that “Vietnam needs to show a continued progress on human rights and freedom, including the freedom of religion, the freedom of expression and the freedom of association.”
So far, governments and officials from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Norway have shown interests in this case.
Last year, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) called for Mr. Quan’s release. The activist lawyer was once detained for 100 days after returning to the home country from studying in the U.S.
Human rights remain a major issue hindering the development of closer ties between Vietnam and the U.S.
Recently, Vietnam has urged the U.S. to remove its lethal weapon ban. However, Washington demands Hanoi to improve its human rights first, including unconditional release of political prisoners.
Vietnam should prove that it has progress on human rights and basic freedom, including freedom of religions, expression and assembly, said State Secretary John Kerry.
Vietnam Should Be Back in CPC
The Boat People SOS will continue to work on bring Vietnam back to the list of countries with particular concerns (CPC), said its President Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang.
According the U.S.’s laws, countries in the CPC will face different level of punishment by Washington, starting from protest, warning, suspension or stop of exchange of culture and science, delay or cancelation of visits, stoping, suspending or halting aid, sale ban of lethal weapon and technologies and forces U.S. agencies not to sign agreements on border entry and exit.
The laws will punish foreign governments responsible for religion suppression by not granting visa to the U.S. to officials and their relatives.
If Vietnam is put back to the CPC, the communist government in Hanoi has no chance to buy lethal weapons from the U.S. In addition, the country’s participation in the TPP will also be under question, and grants and aids from the U.S. will be suspended while loans of international financial institutions will be more difficult.
It is possible for Vietnam to be back in the CPC when Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, a special reporter of the UN on religious freedom reported that Vietnam’s freedom of religious and belief is very bad.
MachSong: Mục tiêu kế đến: Đưa Việt Nam vào CPC
Summary by Nguyen Thanh Thuy
Translation by Vu Quoc Ngu