November 30, 2015
Vietnam Human Rights Weekly November 23-29, 2015: 15-year-old Boy Sentenced to 4.5 Years in Jail for Opposing Police in Land Seizure in April
Defenders’ Weekly | Nov 29, 2015
Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan, 15, was tried by the People’s Court of Thanh Hoa district, Long An province for “intentionally inflicting injury on state officials” under Article 104 of the country’s Penal Code on November 24. The court found him guilty and sentenced him to 4.5 years’ imprisonment and ordered him to pay a compensation of VND42.6 million ($1,880) to the injured policemen.
In response, 21 independent civil societies and numerous activists have issued a joint statement urging the communist government to unconditionally free Tuan who was unfairly tried.
On November 25, Vietnam’s legislative body National Assemby adopted the Law on Detention, according to which detained people have the right to vote in general elections and referendum.
And other important news
Vietnam Beating Case Highlights TPP Labor Rights Issue
VOA News— A Vietnamese labor activist has accused authorities of beating and detaining her after she talked with fired workers in southern Long An province.
Long-time labor rights advocate Do Thi Minh Hanh, once imprisoned for helping organize labor strikes, said she was held Monday for “13 hours without being given any reasons.”
“In the end, they presented a paperwork saying I violated administrative procedure and asked me to sign, but I refused to. I am the one who was a victim of illegal arrest. I was dragged away from the workers, was hit on my face and head, and was put in a chokehold,” Hanh said.
The activist added that her personal belongings and leaflets advocating labor rights were confiscated.
Hanh, co-founder of Free Viet Labor Federation, and another activist, Truong Minh Duc, said they came to give support and advice to dozens of workers who maintained they had been unlawfully fired by a foreign-owned company.
The chief of the Long Binh police station where Hanh and Duc were reportedly confined could not be reached for comment.
TPP Side Pact
The allegation comes just weeks after the release of a side agreement to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between Vietnam and the U.S., which urges Hanoi to pass laws that “ensure the right of workers to freely form and join a labor union of their choosing.”
The state-sanctioned Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, which activists accuse of favoring companies and factory owners, is the only legal trade union for Vietnamese workers.
Twelve Pacific Rim countries, including Vietnam, reached agreement on the TPP last month.
But the historic pact faces skeptics in the U.S. Congress, where some lawmakers have expressed their concerns about jobs being shifted from the U.S. to nations where unions’ and workers’ rights are weak.
Addressing the legislature last week, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said Vietnam as well as other countries “have to respect” the TPP terms related to workers’ rights.
But Hanh said the struggle for workers’ rights is a long one, and nothing has really changed yet.
Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said last week that Vietnam appeared to “play nice during TPP negotiations, but now that the agreement has been signed, it is taking steps to tighten government control over critics.”
Hanoi has not yet responded to the New York-based group, but said in the past that freedom of speech is protected.
According to official statistics, hundreds of unauthorized strikes took place in Vietnam last year over wage and contract issues.
One More Detainee Dies at Vietnam Police Facility amid Rising Public Concern
Trinh Xuan Quyen, 16-year-old boy from Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Dak Nong, died on November 17 due to severe injuries he received during a two-week detention at the local police facility, state media has reported.
On November 1, police in Cu Jut district arrested Quyen on allegation of stealing a motorbike of his uncle. Police said they would hold the boy for two months for investigation, said Mrs. Nguyen Thi Nhi, mother of the dead detainee.
Mrs. Nhi said on November 16, the district police summoned her to the district central hospital to take care her son. On the same day, he was transferred to the province’s central hospital and then to Ho Chi Minh City-based Cho Ray Hospital after his health worsened. He died on Wednesday last week.
The mother said that there were a number of severe injuries on his body. She claimed that on the day of arrest, her son was healthy.
Police kept all dossier of his medical treatment so she is unable to know the real cause of her son’s death.
The Police Investigation Agency of the Dak Nong province is investigating the case, said police officer Nguyen Huu Tuan in Cu Jut district.
Quyen is among a number of detainees who died or received severe injuries during detention this year. Vietnam ratified the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Last month, Do Dang Du, 17-year-old boy in Chuong My district, Hanoi, died from severe injuries during custody in Hanoi’s Detention Facility No. 3. The Hanoi police said Du was beaten by other detainees, however, the victim’s family and its lawyers said the police’s explanation contains many disputed or unsubstantiated assertions.
Torture is systemic in Vietnam, said the New York-based Human Rights Watch. According to the Ministry of Public Security, 226 detainees and prisoners died in police stations between October 2011 and September 2014. Police said their deaths were mostly caused by suicides and illness, however, families of the victims suspect that police torture and inhumane treatments are the real cause of the deaths.
Only a few police perpetrators have been punished with light sentences, human rights activists noted.
Vietnam Court Sentences 15-year-old Boy to 54 Months in Jail for Opposing Police in Land Grabbing Case
The People’s Court in Thanh Hoa district in Vietnam’s southern province of Long An on November 24 sentenced Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan, a 15-year-old boy to 54 months in prison for attacking police with acid when local authorities deployed police and militia to seize his family’s land in mid April.
Tuan, who was found guilty of intentionally inflicting injury on state officials under Article 104 of the country’s Penal Code as the indictment said, will have to pay a compensation of VND42.6 million ($1,880) for his victims.
Tuan’s lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng insisted in the court room that his client is innocent since the boy’s act was not intentional and was triggered by police violence during the land seizure. The lawyer also said the court used the temporary health tests of the injured policemen which were not carried out according to proper procedures.
The court rejected the lawyer’s defense and imposed the heavy sentence on the boy whose final statement in court is to come back to school to continue his study.
Around 60 Vietnamese activists from Ho Chi Minh City and other southern provinces came to Thanh Hoa to attend the open trial, however, they were not allowed to enter the courtroom so they stayed outside and listened through a loudspeaker. Security agents closely monitored the activists and tried to bar them from moving around the court building.
The sentence makes Tuan the third member of his family to be jailed in the same land grabbing case. In September, his father Nguyen Trung Can and mother Mai Thi Kim Huong were tried and imprisoned for causing public disorder after they opposed local authorities’ seizure of their land seven months ago. The father and mother were sentenced to prison terms of three years and three and half years, respectively.
Also in the same case, ten people from two other families were sentenced to between two and three and half years in prison for opposing the local authorities, in the first hearing in mid September.
On April 14, Long An’s authorities sent numerous policemen and militia to evict the three families, including the four-member family of Can and Huong, out of their land to make way for an embankment project. However, they met strong objection from the land owners who have not agreed to the proposed compensation of VND300,000 per square meter.
According to state-run newspapers, the farmers used gas cylinder and knifes to protect their land, and threw acid at policemen, burning 15 officers, one of officer had to seek treatment at the Ho Chi Minh City-based Cho Ray Hospital, according to the local authorities.
Two other policemen were also scratched in their arms allegedly by people attacking them with scissors, the local police said.
Several years ago, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development approved the project which would be built on the land of the three families, but they refused to give up their lands due to the low compensation prices.
In Vietnam, all land is owned by the state and people only get the right to use land. The law allows the government to revoke these rights at any time, usually by paying compensation.
But it often triggers conflicts and sometimes even violence.
A gun battle by farmer Doan Van Vuon’s family in the northern city of Haiphong in January 2012 among other incidents prompted the government to issue a resolution this April that restricts local authorities in taking land from farmers.
It enjoins authorities to ensure farmers’ legitimate interests are protected if their land is taken over for national security and other public purposes.
Thousands of farmers across Vietnam have gathered in front of government buildings in the capital city of Hanoi to demand for justice as local authorities have grabbed their land for very cheap prices for developing industrial and urban projects.
Many said they have no more land for crop cultivation while others claimed that they could not buy land for resettlement with the compensation they received for the expropriated land.
Land petitioners have been inhumanely treated by police forces which often detain them in police stations and beat them before sending them back to their home localities.
Many Vietnamese have been charged for conducting activities against on-duty officials when they tried to protect their land. Many have been imprisoned up to three years.
Last year, land petitioner Dang Ngoc Viet, 42, a recipient in a land compensation deal in Haiphong city, opened fire on a group of five officials from Thai Binh’s Center for Land Development Fund, killing one and severely injured two others. Viet killed himself a few hours later on the same day.
The shooting resulted from some disagreement between the petitioner and officials in the northern province of Thai Binh, which is adjacent to Haiphong city. Farmer Doan Van Vuon was the first in Vietnam to have opposed land rights abuse by armed resistance.
Hanoi-based human rights activists said that if the single party-ruled maintains its policies on land management, in which the state controls land and gives locals rights to use it only, there would be more similar tragic cases.
More than 70% of prolonged complaint cases reported in Vietnam so far are related to land disputes in which local governments or authorities-backed investors take land from local people at dirt prices for so-called development projects.
Teacher Nguyen Nang Tinh Beaten by Nghe An Police
Teacher Nguyen Nang Tinh in the central province of Nghe An on November 24 was severely beaten by eight plainclothes policemen.
The attackers also robbed his cell phone, wallet and other things when he was on his way to work.
Teacher Tinh is one of the outspoken government critics in Nghe An where security forces have brutally attacked and harassed local dissidents and human rights activists
Vietnam Parliament Passes Revised Penal Code Removing Death Penalty for Corruption
Members of Vietnamese National Assembly (NA), the country’s top legislature, have passed the revised Penal Code, abolishing death sentence for people who are charged with corruption, state media reported Friday.
The code, which will take effect starting in July 2016, will also drop the death penalty for seven crimes: surrendering to the enemy, opposing order, destruction of projects of national security importance, robbery, drug possession, drug appropriation, and the production and trade of fake food.
Accordingly, if corrupt Vietnamese officials handed at least three fourths of the illegal assets or illicit funds they made, they could only be sentenced at most to life in prison.
This regulation, which is stated in Article 40 of the Penal Code, received the least vote from lawmakers, compared to the rate for other draft laws, according to the media. Only 69.23% of lawmakers at the NA’s meeting on November 26 agreed with the provision, the online Thoi Bao Kinh Te Viet Nam newspaper reported.
A number of lawmakers have claimed that removing death sentence for corruption crime shows the country’s humane policies and tolerance to violators. International human rights groups and some Western countries have been urging Vietnam to abolish the death penalty.
However, local observers worried that the move could leave room for corruption to run even worse without a strict punishment.
At the meeting on November 26, lawmakers agreed that the death penalty will not be imposed for people over 75 years old.
Vietnam has been able to recover only 10% of the corrupt assets for the state budget.
Former Prisoner of Conscience Pham Minh Vu: I Continue to Fight for Multi-party Democracy in Vietnam
Pham Minh Vu, a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy who completed his 18-month imprisonment last week, said he will continue to fight for multi-party democracy in Vietnam.
The imprisonment not only failed to make him fearful but in fact has made him stronger in fighting for human rights improvement, he shared.
Last year, Vu and his two friends Le Thi Phuong Anh and Do Nam Trung from the unsanctioned Brotherhood of Democracy were convicted on the fabricated charge of conducting activities “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 258 of the Criminal Code.
The trio was arrested on May 15, 2014 when they went from the capital city to southern Vietnam in a bid to cover news about violent anti-China demonstrations by local residents and workers. Initially, police accused the three activists of inciting anti-China riots in which angry workers attacked Chinese workers and destroyed China-invested factories in Dong Nai province’s industrial zones. However, due to lack of solid evidence, Vietnam’s investigation agency changed the allegation.
In a close trial on February 12 this year, the People’s Court of the southern province of Dong Nai found the trio guilty and sentenced Vu to 18 months in jail, while Trung and Anh received respective 14 months and 12 months in prison. The latter two were already freed on May and July.
Many Lawyers Willing to Provide Legal Counseling for Unfairly-tried Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan in Appeal
A number of lawyers said they would provide legal assistance for Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan, a 15-year-old boy who was sentenced to 4.5 years in jail for resisting police in a land seizure case, in the appeal.
Lawyer Duong Phi Anh said in his facebook page that he is thinking about defending Tuan in a bid to demand for his release and return him to school. Children of his age should go to school and the law should be flexible, especially when children are involved, he added.
Many Vietnamese in the country and abroad have called on the public to help Tuan and his family to seek justice.
Long An Court Upholds Sentences for Parents of Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan
On November 25, the People’s Court of the southern province of Long An upheld the sentences of the parents of Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan but reduced the sentence of Tuan’s grandfather to probation.
The state-run Long An newspaper reported that the defendants admitted of committing activities against on-duty state officials but rejected that their acts were organized as accused.
In September, his father Nguyen Trung Can and mother Mai Thi Kim Huong were tried and imprisoned for causing public disorder after they opposed local authorities’ seizure of their land on April 14, with three years and three and half years, respectively.
Also in the case, ten people from two other families were sentenced to between two and three and half years in prison for opposing the local authorities, in the first hearing in mid September.
Detainee Still Can Be Handcuffed
On November 25, the Vietnamese parliament passed the Law on Detention, according to which detainees can vote in general elections and referenda.
However, the detainees may be handcuffed despite objection of many lawmakers who said detainees cannot be treated as guilty.
Vietnam ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. However, torture remains systemic in the communist nation.
Hanoi to Try Leader of Unsanctioned Republican Party of Vietnam on December 9,14
The communist government in Hanoi will bring Nguyen Viet Dung, the founder and leader of the unsanctioned Republican Party of Vietnam, to court on December 9 and 14, few months ahead of the 12th National Congress of the ruling communist party, his family said.
Mr. Dung, 30, an engineer graduated from the prestigious Hanoi University of Science and Technology, will be tried for causing public disorder under Article 245 of the country’s Penal Code in the first hearing in a Hanoi court, nine months after being detained by security forces in Vietnam’s capital city.
The People’s Court in Hoan Kiem district will carry out the trial and if found guilty, he faces imprisonment of between two and seven years, according to the Penal Code.
Dung’s family has hired lawyers Vo An Don, Tran Thu Nam and Le Van Luan to defend him.
Joint Statement of Vietnam’s independent civil and political organizations on the trial against Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan by Thanh Hoa district’s People’ Court on November 24
– Vietnamese people in the country and abroad
– Land petitioners in Vietnam
– Democratic Governments worldwide
– International human rights bodies
While domestic public and international community are still concerned about the results of the unfair and barbaric trial of the People’s Court of Thanh Hoa district, Long An province on September 15-16 in which the court sentenced 12 land petitioners to a total of 26.5 years in prison and seven years on probation on the charge of “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 257 of the Penal Code, the People’s Court of the same locality on November 24 sentenced Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan, who was born on March 30, 2000, to four years and half in jail for “intentionally inflicting injury on state officials” under Article 104 of the same law. The boy was forced to pay a compensation of VND 42.6 million ($1,880).
In response to the verdict, the undersigned independent civil and political organizations in Vietnam jointly declare:
The trial is part of the unfair case against the two families who rose up to protest the land seizure by the Thanh Hoa district authorities which agreed to pay only low compensation for their land (the compensation price is VND300,000/square meter compared with the market price of VND22 million/square meter). The land grabbing by Thanh Hoa district authorities has violated the citizens’ right to residence enshrined in Clause 1, Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as Clause 1, Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The trial against Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan must be condemned because:
– The communist government considers the legitimate self-defense and the unexpected indignant reaction of the 15-year-old boy to the harassment of hundreds of policemen and militia against his parents and relatives and the burning of his house as a serious crime while the policemen who severely beat the land owners remain unpunished.
– The judges refused the request of Tuan’s lawyer to summon two officials who did the test to determine the injuries of the attacked officials to the court in order to determine the injury rates of the attacked officials. The objectiveness of the test results is under question since the officials conducting the tests are local officers. In addition, their testing results consist of illogical conclusions which aimed to raise the infirmity rate to 35% so the attacker can be prosecuted.
– Security forces in Long An barred the defendant’s relatives, his family’s friends and social activists from entering the courtroom. Police also did not allow activists to express their support for the defendant and harassed them both on their way to the court and the way home. Even the land petioners in Ha Noi are repressed in their communion with the defendant.
– Heavy sentence imposed on the child who tried to protect his family and justice as well as objecting to local authorities. The long-term sentence will affect his psychological well-being and his future given the fact that both his mother and father are imprisoned. The move violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Vietnam is a state party.
The court on November 24 and the court on September 15-16 aimed to threaten those people who want to stand up to demand for the right to live, and supported the land-grabbing by local authorities, red capitalists and police forces.
The trials against land petitioners in the past decades aimed to protect the illogical regulation of the communist government, that all land belongs to the communist state.
The communist government’s barbaric regulation on land ownership has rendered millions of Vietnamese landless and resulted in high social instability in the country./.
Viet Nam, November 27, 2015
1- Independent Caodaist Church, Tay Ninh, represented by Hua Phi, Nguyen Kim Lan, Bach Phung
2- Campaign Committee for Independent literary body, represented by Bui Chat
3- Le Hieu Dang club, represented by Huynh Kim Bau
4- Vietnam Bauxite forum, represented Pham Xuan Yem
5- Civil societies forum, represented Nguyen Quang A
6- Viet Tan party, represented Pham Minh Hoang
7- Hoa Hao Buddhist Purist Church, represented by Le Quang Hien.
8- Brotherhood for Democracy, represented by Pham Van Troi
9- Association to protect Freedom of Religion, represented by Ha Thi Van.
10- Association of Bau Bi fellowship, represented by Nguyen Le Hung
11- Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, represented by Huynh Thuc Vy and Tran Thi Nga
12- Caodaist Nhon Sanh Bloc, represented by Vo Van Quang, Tran Ngoc Suong and Tran Quoc Tien
13- Bloc 8406 for Freedom and Democracy, represented by Do Nam Hai.
14- Viet Labor, represented by Do Thi Minh Hanh
15- Vietnam Blogger Network, represented by Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh
16- National Congress of Vietnamese Americans, represented by Nguyen Ngoc Bich
17- Defend the Defenders, represented by Vu Quoc Ngu
18- Nguyen Kim Dien Priests group, represented by Phan Van Loi
- Movement of Land Petitioners Fighting for Justice, represented by Tran Ngoc Anh
20- Saigon Newspaper, represented by Le Ngoc Thanh
21- Sangha of Vietnamese United Buddhist Church, represented by Thich Khong Tanh
Nguyễn Minh Cần, Journalist, Russia.
Lê Quang Du, Pastor, Sai Gon, Viet Nam
Chu Vĩnh Hải, Independent Journalist,
Huỳnh Bá Hải, Independent Journalist, Norway
Phan Tấn Hải, Writer, USA.
Hoàng Văn Hùng, Engineer, Ha Noi
Lê Anh Hùng, Independent Journalist, Ha Noi.
Nguyễn Mạnh Hùng, Pastor, Sai Gon
Hoàng Hưng, zPoet, Sai Gon.
Kha lương Ngãi, Independent Journalist, Sai Gon
Phùng Hoài Ngoc, M.A., An Giang
Nguyễn Thiện Nhân, Independent Journalist, Binh Duong
Ý Nhi, Poet, Sai Gon
Bùi Minh Quốc, Independent Journalist, Da Lat
Đào Đức Thông, Independent Journalist, Ha Noi
Nguyễn Tường Thụy, Independent Journalist, Ha Noi.
Nguyễn Trung Tôn, Pastor, Thanh Hoa
Phạm Đình Trọng, Writer, Sai Gon.
Phạm Mạnh Tuân
Lê Thanh Tùng, Independent Journalist, Sai Gon.
Nguyen Trung, Independent Journalist,
J.B Nguyễn Hữu Vinh, Independent Journalist, Ha Noi
Trần Phong Vũ, Independent Journalist, California, USA.
Vietnam’s amended Criminal Code reduces death penalty crimes, increases restrictions on freedom and rights
PARIS, 27 November 2015 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) welcomes the abolition of the death penalty for seven crimes in the amended Criminal Code voted by Vietnam’s National Assembly today. However, VCHR is deeply disappointed that the long-promised reform of the Criminal Code has not only failed to bring legislation into line with international human rights law, but on the contrary has increased restrictions on fundamental freedoms and rights in Vietnam.
“The amended Criminal Code goes even further than the old one – if that is possible – in criminalizing the exercise of human rights”, said VCHR President Vo Van Ai. “Despite decades of pressure from the international community, ambiguously-defined “national security” crimes are still in place, and they are now flanked by even vaguer provisions on “infringing or interfering on the rights of others”, which are grossly inconsistent with UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)”.
The death penalty is abolished for crimes of robbery (Article 133 in the old Code), manufacturing or trading in fake foods and medicines (Article 157), producing, trading in, or possessing narcotics (Articles 193 and 194), destroying national security works or facilities (Article 231), disobeying orders (Article 316) and surrendering to the enemy (Article 322). Death sentences for official corruption will be commuted to life imprisonment if the officials pay back at least 75% of their illegal gains. The death penalty is also abolished for people over 70 years old.
Capital punishment is maintained, however, for vaguely-worded national security crimes such as spying (Article 80 in the former Code) and subversion (“activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration”, formerly Article 79), which are frequently used to detain government critics. At its Universal Periodic Review at the UN in February 2014, Vietnam made firm commitments to bring Article 79 into line with the ICCPR on the recommendations of several countries, including Norway, Canada and Australia. In 2013, the State Prosecutor called for the death penalty under Article 79 against activist Pham Van Thu for his peaceful environmental activities. He was condemned to life in prison.
“Vietnam announced that reducing crimes eligible for the death penalty is aimed to demonstrate the State’s “humanitarian policy”, said Vo Van Ai. “In fact it reveals the State’s obsession with suppressing independent voices to maintain political control. As for exempting the elderly from the death penalty, this provision was enshrined in the 15th century Lê Code, more than 500 years ago!”
Crimes such as “circulating anti-Socialist propaganda” (formerly Article 88) and“abusing democratic freedoms and rights to encroach upon State interests”(former Article 258), which Vietnam also promised to amend, remain unchanged in the revised Criminal Code, except for their numbers. Certain provisions concerning freedom of expression, religion or belief, association and assembly incur harsher penalties.
Some members of the National Assembly opposed the change in the death penalty regarding corruption. They feared it would weaken the government’s fight to stamp out corruption, which has reached proportions of a “national catastrophe”. Some also said that corrupt officials would use this loophole in the law to “buy back their lives”.
The amended Criminal Code will come into force on 1st July, 2016.
This flawed reform of the Criminal Code comes against a backdrop of restrictive human rights legislation under preparation in Vietnam. Today, 27 November, the National Assembly also debated the 5th draft of a “Law on Belief and Religion” – Vietnam’s very first law of this kind, which has been strongly criticized by all Vietnam’s religious communities. The draft gives the government extensive leeway to interfere in the internal affairs of religious communities and control their activities, in violation of Article 18 of the ICCPR. A new “Law on Associations” is also under way, which imposes excessive government controls on associative activity, as well as restrictive legislation on access to information. In addition, the amended Criminal Procedures Code contains several elements that are inconsistent with international human rights law.
Hai Duong: Young Man Found Dead on Fourth Day in Police’s Custody
Mai Cong Do, 25, was found dead on the 4th day in police custody in Cam Giang district in the northern province of Hai Duong.
In the morning of November 24, Do was arrested for possessing a small amount of drugs. He was held in the district police’s detention facility.
On November 27, police informed Do’s family that he died after hanging himself.
Police conducted an autopsy on Do without informing the family’s representatives. They offered VND50 million for the family and asked the family to immediately cremate him.
Do is the 15th Vietnamese to die in police station since the beginning of this year. Police torture is supposed to be main cause for their deaths, human rights activists said.