February 1, 2016
Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly January 25-31, 2016: Amnesty International Urges Vietnam’s New Leadership to Enhance Human Rights Situation
Defenders’ Weekly | Jan 31, 2016
The new Vietnamese leadership must urgently rehabilitate country’s appalling human rights record, said the London-based Amnesty International on January 28, the day the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam concluded its 12th National Congress with election of the senior leaders for the next five years.
If Vietnam wants to portray itself as a responsible member of the international community, this pattern of abuses will have to be broken, Amnesty International said. The new leadership of General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong must prioritize root and branch reforms across the country’s various branches of government in order for the government to deliver on its human rights promises and international legal obligations, it concluded.
The independent Vietnam Women for Human Rights has become a member of Forum-Asia, a human rights organization in Asia.
On January 27, the U.S.-based Freedom House issued an annual report criticizing Vietnam’s government for continuing limit on press freedom and harassments against civil society organizations as well as limit on Internet access for information gathering.
And other important news
VNWHR Becomes Full Member of Forum-Asia
On January 6, on the occasion of its 25th anniversary, Forum-Asia, an Asian human rights body, agreed to accept the independent Vietnam Women for Human Rights (VNWHR) as its member.
The VNWHR is the first Vietnamese independent civil society organization to be member of the organization.
Amnesty Int’l Urges Vietnam New Leadership to Enhance Human Rights Situation
Defend the Defenders: The new Vietnamese leadership must urgently rehabilitate country’s appalling human rights record, said the London-based Amnesty International on Jan 28, the day the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam concluded its 12th National Congress with election of the senior leaders for the next five years.
Although Vietnam is a member of the UN Human Rights Council and has ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2014, human rights violations in the country continue unabated, the Amnesty International said.
The human rights body cited the case of Le Van Manh, who was convicted of the 2005 rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl, but always maintained his innocence and says that he was tortured into a “confession”.
Under international and domestic protest, Vietnam has been forced to postpone the execution of the man. However, his fate is still unclear as the legal and judicial system has closed ranks, refusing to disclose information and shielding itself from assessment and accountability.
In order to move the country forward, re-elected General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong must initiate inclusive reforms and ensure an end to the repressive tendencies of his previous administration, the Amnesty International said. Hundreds of detainees died in police custody in three-year period between October 2010 and September 2014 but the Ministry of Public Security claimed that most deaths were the result of illness or natural causes.
The ministry also claimed it had arrested and dealt with 1,410 cases involving 2,680 people who had “violated national security”, a term which is often used by the communist government to silence local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders. The police chief also labeled independent civil society organizations as opposition groups.
In addition, many activists have been attacked by police and thugs, the Amnesty International said, adding 69 male and female activists are known to have been targeted in 36 violent attacks, perpetrated by police or men in plain-clothes, widely believed to be working for, or with, the police.
Amnesty International also named human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai as one of many victims of persecution. Before being arrested in mid-December last year, he and three activists were beaten by 20 thugs in the central province of Nghe An.
It said that Vietnam’s human rights journey follows a well-established pattern: where there appears to be one step forward, there are often a number of steps back.
In October 2015, Vietnam, the U.S. and ten other countries concluded negotiation on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement which will require signatory countries to allow independent unions. However, few weeks later, attacks against workers’ rights advocates have continued. In November, Do Thi Minh Hanh and Truong Minh Duc, two labor activists and former prisoners of conscience, were beaten by men in plainclothes before being detained by uniformed police.
If Vietnam wants to portray itself as a responsible member of the international community, this pattern of abuses will have to be broken, the Amnesty International said. The new leadership of General Nguyen Phu Trong must prioritize root and branch reforms across the country’s various branches of government in order for the government to deliver on its human rights promises and international legal obligations, it concluded.
Freedom House: Vietnam Continues Limiting Press Freedom, Harassing Civil Society Organizations
The Washington DC-based Freedom House on January 27 criticized Vietnam’s communist government, saying Hanoi continues limiting press freedom and cracking down independent civil society organizations as well as limiting Internet access for information gathering.
Freedom House’s statement about Vietnam is part of its annual report on global freedom index in 2016 which reviews freedom in countries in 2015.
Int’l CSOs Demand Freedom for Imprisoned Vietnamese Bloggers
On January 27, Germany’s Reporters Without Borders (Reporter ohne Grenzen ROG) and Missio voiced to demand Vietnam’s government to release local imprisoned bloggers, including Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly.
One day earlier, the two organizations launched a campaign to call on people globally to join a petition to request immediate and unconditional release of all Vietnamese human rights activists.
As part of the campaign, the two organizations also held a roundtable seminar on the current situation of Vietnamese bloggers at the headquarters of ZEIT Online newspaper in Berlin. Participants of the seminar included Vietnamese blogger Bui Thanh Hieu (aka Nguoi Buon Gio), Mr. Sven Hansen, editor of TAZ daily and Mr. Klaus Kramer, president of Missio.
Mr. Hansen, who just came back from Vietnam said the Asian country has impressive economic progress, however, the civil rights are not protected. He said Hanoi has strived to tightly control religions and civil societies.
The Catholic Church’s foremost mission support charity, raising awareness and funds for its missionary and pastoral work worldwide.
Vietnam Official Seriously Stabbed by Land Petitioner
Defend the Defenders: Ms. Tran Thi Thu Hien, an official of the Hanoi-based Central Agency for People Claim Settlement, has been seriously hurt on Jan. 28 by a land petitioner named Pham Thi Thuan from the central province of Thanh Hoa, state media has reported.
The incident happened in the morning of Thursday at the agency’s office located in Ha Dong district after a quarrel between the official and land petitioners.
Police immediately arrested the attacker who is likely to be charged with attempted murder of on-duty state official.
Land petitioners said Ms. Hien is among the most arrogant officials of the agency when receiving their complaints.
Thousands of land petitioners across the country have gathered in government buildings in Hanoi and other major cities to demand for justice, requesting the central government and local authorities to settle their claims in land seizure for industrial and urban development projects.
Many land petitioners said local authorities have grabbed their land without compensation or with very low compensation prices, and the land was then given to property developers who later sell at much higher prices.
Land petitioners, who live in street, have been subjects of police persecution, especially on occasions of the communist party’s meetings. A number of them have been jailed on trumped-up charges of causing public disorders.
Vietnamese Human Rights Activist Detained for Months on Trumped-Up Allegation of Drug Possession
Defend the Defenders: Human rights activist and outspoken medical doctor Hoang Van Giang from Vietnam’s central province of Thanh Hoa has been in police custody since mid-October last year on the trumped-up allegation of possessing drug, local media has reported.
According to the independent SBTN newswire, Mr. Hoang Giang was arrested on October 14 and accused of illegal possession of drug. If found guilty, he could face long-term imprisonment as the country’s law imposes heavy punishment for the trade and possession of drugs.
A trusted source cited by SBTN said that on the day of his arrest, Dr. Giang worked in his private clinic. One of his regular clients invited him to a cafeteria and when they were inside the cafeteria with a third friend, police came to conduct administrative checks. They then found a certain amount of narcotic on his friend. Police immediately arrested the duo and placed them under investigation for drug possession.
Since then. Dr. Giang, who has promoted human rights and multi-party democracy in the country, has been in police custody. So far, the activist has rejected all allegations, claiming he has neither used nor possessed drug.
His family said the Thanh Hoa province’s police have come to threaten and persuade his relatives to tell him to admit that he had illegally possessed drug. Police have pledged that if he confesses wrongdoing, he will enjoy leniency with lighter punishment.
The family also said that the police asked VND100 million ($4,400) for his release. However, the offer was turned down. The family had refused even when the police lowered the sum to VND20 million.
Police have continued to meet the family in order to ask relatives to pressure him to confess, however, Dr. Giang reaffirmed that he is innocent and being framed in the case.
In recent years, many Vietnamese human rights activists have been arrested and imprisoned on the basis of trumped-up criminal charges of causing public disorders or committing tax evasion. The victims include land rights activist Bui Thi Minh Hang, human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan and social activist Truong Minh Tam.
The communist party, which has ruled Vietnam for decades, has vowed to maintain the country under a one-party regime. Its government has used controverial articles in the Penal Code to silence local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders.
According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is holding at least 130 political prisoners while Hanoi always denies imprisoning any but only law violators.
Independent VNWHR Sets up Foreign-based Office
The unsanctioned Vietnam Women for Human Rights (VNWHR) on January 30 officially established its foreign-based representative office which is expected to help the organization promote its activities and connections with regional and international community.
The move came few weeks after the VNWHR became a member of Forum-Asia and Asia Democracy Network.
The establishment of the VNWHR’s office abroad is a chance for the organization to promote bilateral cooperation with regional and global civil society organizations and help the local CSOs deeply integrate globally, said Mrs. Huynh Thuc Vy, coordinator of the Vietnamese human rights body.
The VNWHR is not recognized by the Vietnamese communist government which has constantly harassed its members.