March 28, 2016
Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly March 21-27: Vietnam Imprisons Founder of Independent News Website Ba Sam and His Assistant
Defenders’ Weekly | Mar 27, 2016
On March 23, the People’s Court in Hanoi sentenced prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh, the founder of the well-known independent news website Ba Sam and his assistant Ms. Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy to five years and three years in jail for abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State” under Article 258 of the country’s Penal Code.
During the one-day hearing which failed to meet international standards for fair trial, the communist-controlled judges found the duo guilty of posting 24 articles on the website which have “untruthful and baseless content; distort the lines and policies of the Party and the law of the State; vilify a number of individuals and affect the prestige of offices and organizations; present a one-side and pessimistic view, causing anxiety and worry, and affecting the people’s confidence in the leadership of the Party, the Government, the National Assembly, and the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
Before the trial, the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the London-based Amnesty International urged Vietnam’s communist government to drop all charges against the duo and release them.
After the trial, many foreign governments and international human rights bodies issued statements condemning the heavy sentences imposed over the two bloggers. They also call for international pressure on Vietnam’s government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy as well as other prisoners of conscience.
Vietnamese social activists may be arrested and charged with causing public disorders while peacefully supporting defendants in political trials and other trials on sensitive cases, according to Circular 13 of the Ministry of Public Security effective from March 24. Human rights defenders consider the document illegal as it limits the freedom of assembly enshrined in the country’s Constitution 2013.
And many other important news
In One-Party Vietnam, Independents Vie for Assembly Seats
New York Times: Taking the stage here on Friday, the singer-songwriter Mai Khoi launched into her hit song “Vietnam,” an optimistic ode to the country’s landscape and people. But the rest of her set list included songs, such as one called “Cuffed in Freedom,” that addressed hot-button social issues like corruption, gender inequality and official restrictions on artistic expression.
Ms. Mai Khoi, 32, is among a group of around two dozen Vietnamese activists and celebrities who are running as independents this month for the authoritarian state’s rubber-stamp National Assembly — and effectively daring the ruling Communist Party to not put them on the ballot. Analysts say it is the first time that more than two or three activists have run for office.
Ms. Mai Khoi said her growing interest in social justice and youth issues — expressed through her songs — would make her an appealing candidate for many young Vietnamese who are not otherwise interested in politics.
She already has thousands of supporters, she said after the concert between puffs of a cigarillo, “because they already see what I’m doing in my music.”
Vietnam first allowed independent candidates in 2002, and just seven of a few hundred have won seats in the National Assembly in three elections since, according to an analysis by the United Nations Development Program. These independents have typically been businesspeople or academics who are party members or have deep connections to the government, and most have been weeded out well before voting began by a complex vetting process that the party controls, analysts said. Ms. Mai Khoi, like many other independents this year, is not a party member.
The activist candidates this year mainly come from Hanoi, the capital, and Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s business hub, and include writers, lawyers, educators and even a stand-up comedian.
“Before, the National Assembly wasn’t so much part of the national consciousness,” but this year’s crop of independents draws from a far wider cross-section of society, said Edmund J. Malesky, a Vietnam specialist and a professor of political economy at Duke University.
Professor Malesky said that the independents were younger than ever and that many were discussing their platforms with a degree of openness that is rare in the one-party state. Debates in the National Assembly have become livelier in recent years, he said, and the rise of nontraditional candidates like Ms. Mai Khoi may reflect a growing interest among ordinary Vietnamese in domestic politics.
Nguyen Trang Nhung, 34, has described her candidacy as a challenge to a government that often faces heavy criticism from international human rights groups over its jailing of political dissidents. Credit Quinn Ryan Mattingly for The New York Times
The candidates do not have a uniform political ideology. Some, like Ms. Mai Khoi, do not consider themselves dissidents. Others, like Nguyen Trang Nhung, describe their candidacies as a direct challenge to a government that often faces heavy criticism from international human rights groups over its jailing of political dissidents.
“We have a one-party regime; I would like to have a multiparty one,” said Ms. Nhung, 34, a businesswoman and activist in Ho Chi Minh City. “If we have many parties, we can choose which one makes things work better.”
One of the best-known independent candidates is Nguyen Quang A, a Hanoi businessman and activist who tried, and failed, to establish Vietnam’s first independent research institute in 2007. In recent weeks, he said, he has collected 5,000 signatures from a diverse group of supporters that includes government officials, even though that was not technically required.
Mr. Quang A, 69, said Vietnam had recently taken several major steps toward international integration, like joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an American-led trade deal reached in February that awaits congressional approval. Such a shift, he said, has created room for civil-society groups in Vietnam to operate.
“We’re trying to expand our space, too,” he said of the activist candidates.
But Mr. Quang A conceded that his own bid had almost no chance of succeeding.
“The electoral system is designed to be controlled by the party,” he said.
Reached by telephone on Friday, Nguyen Si Dung, the deputy secretary general of the National Assembly, said he was unavailable for comment.
Vietnam initially allowed independent candidates as part of broader changes that were partly intended to allow the Communist Party to check the power of the prime minister, said Paul Schuler, a professor of political science at the University of Arizona who is writing a book about the National Assembly.
Professor Schuler said that it would be interesting to see how the candidates fared and that if Mr. Quang A made the ballot, it would signal a noticeable “break from the past.”
But he added that independents did not represent a fundamental challenge to Vietnam’s political system because the Communist Party’s candidate-vetting process still granted senior officials significant power to decide who could run for office.
“If they don’t control the process, then it’s no longer a single-party regime, and I think they’re firmly aware of that,” he said.
Danh-Quy Nguyen, the managing editor of the Vietnamese edition of Elle Magazine, said that as a pop singer, Ms. Mai Khoi had a reputation for being outspoken and freethinking, and that over the years, critics had accused her of being “too opinionated.” She is a vocal supporter of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and a critic of domestic violence, and society websites have gossiped about her revealing attire.
Ms. Mai Khoi is unapologetic about her public persona and political aspirations. But she has been careful to play by the government’s rules as she vies for a seat in the National Assembly.
The law bars her from holding political events, for example, so her campaign debut, such as it was, was a quiet meeting with a handful of journalist friends. And the visual centerpiece of her campaign is a digitally created billboard, featuring her face and slogan, that she has posted on Facebook. (The only physical version hangs on a wall in her Ho Chi Minh City apartment, just above her piano.)
On Thursday, Ms. Mai Khoi’s bid for the National Assembly passed an initial procedural hurdle, she said. The next test will be meeting with a group of Communist Party-approved voters in her hometown, the southern city of Cam Ranh. She would also need the approval of the Fatherland Front, a powerful Communist Party organization, to run for office in May.
But Ms. Mai Khoi said that her campaign, which officially began on March 11, was meant to bring young people into the political process and that she would consider it successful even if she never made the ballot.
“I just want to make politics more public,” she said.
The crowd at her show on Friday night, at the venue Saigon Outcast, included supporters of her nascent campaign.
Huynh Thanh Nguyet Anh, 24, a receptionist at a Porsche dealership here, said that she would vote for Ms. Mai Khoi if the singer is permitted to run and that it would be the first vote of her life.
“It’s got to be someone I can trust,” she said.
============= March 22==========
HRW, Amnesty International Urge Vietnam to Drop Charges against Prominent Bloggers
Defend the Defenders: Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have urged Vietnam’s communist government to drop all charges against two prominent bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh, co-founder of well-known independent news website Ba Sam, and his assistant Ms. Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, one day ahead of their trial scheduled on March 23.
“The bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy have been detained for almost two years simply for criticizing the Vietnam Communist Party and its leadership, even though the government has ratified international human rights law that unequivocally protects their actions,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of the NewYork-based Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should immediately free the bloggers and compensate each for this unjust detention.”
Vietnam is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects peaceful expression, including expression critical of governments and leaders. But Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy are not the only bloggers detained for expressing views disapproved by the authorities.
“Vietnam’s friends and donors should publicly challenge the ludicrous charges against Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh,” Adams said. “They should demand that the government free all political prisoners and drop all pending charges against dissenting voices.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International said the trial and continuing detention of the two bloggers who have already spent almost two years in jail is farcical and blight on the country’s human rights record. The London-based organization calls for their immediate release.
“This is a textbook example of the authorities’ stamping out legitimate criticism and perpetuating a climate of fear in which people are forced to think twice before expressing themselves and asking questions of government,” said Champa Patel, director of the South East Asia Regional Office of Amnesty International.
“They have committed no crime but have languished in pre-trial detention for almost two years in blatant violation of both Vietnamese and international law. This farce must end and they must be immediately released.”
============== March 23 ===========
Vietnam Prominent Blogger Sentenced to Five Years in Jail for Abusing Democracy Freedom
Defend the Defenders: The People’s Court in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi on March 23 sentenced prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy with respective five and three years in jail in an open hearing which failed to meet international norms of fair trial.
The court found the duo guilty of “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the state” under Article 258 of the country’s Penal Code. Particularly, Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy were accused of posting 24 articles on Anh Ba Sam news website which are considered by Vietnam’s authorities as having “untruthful and baseless content; distort the lines and policies of the Party and the law of the State; vilify a number of individuals and affect the prestige of offices and organizations; present a one-side and pessimistic view, causing anxiety and worry, and affecting the people’s confidence in the leadership of the Party, the Government, the National Assembly, and the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
Ha Huy Son, one of eight lawyers of the two defendants, said during the trial Vinh did not admit wrongdoings but claimed innocent himself while Ms. Thuy demanded for fair trial. The sentences were inhumane, said the Hanoi-based human rights lawyer.
Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy are expected to appeal their sentences soon, said well-known lawyer Tran Vu Hai.
The case of Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy has drawn attention of foreign governments and international human rights bodies. Many foreign diplomatic corporations in Hanoi want to attend the open trial inside the courtroom, however, only diplomats from the U.S., the EU, Australia and Canada were allowed to monitor the trial on screen in a next room while their colleagues from Sweden, Finland and Germany were forced to stay on streets far from the court building.
Mr. Martin Patzelt, a member of the German Parliament and member of its Human Rights Committee, went to Vietnam earlier this week for the case. He asked Vietnam’s approval to enter the court room, however, his request was turned down and he joined other diplomats on street to monitor the process via loud speaker from the court.
Vietnam’s security forces applied a number of measures to prevent local social activists from going to the areas near the court building. Many activists complained that their security agents blocked their residences, not allowing them to go out on Wednesday.
However, hundreds of activists successfully came to the court but they were not allowed to go inside but stay away from the court building. They then made peaceful demonstrations, hanging banners “Nguyen Huu Vinh innocent” and chanting to demand for immediate and unconditional release of Vinh and his assistant Thuy.
Security forces detained a number of social activists, including prominent economist Dr. Nguyen Quang A and lawyer Nguyen Dinh Ha in the areas near the courtroom, and blogger Doan Trang and land petitioner Tran Thi Hai in their residence. They were released afternoon after being questioned by police officers. Dr. A and Mr. Ha are two self-nominees for the upcoming general election for the country’s parliament scheduled on May 22.
Prior to the trial, the London-based Amnesty International and the New York-based Human Rights Watch issued statements to demand Vietnam to release Vinh and Thuy unconditionally and immediately.
“The bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy have been detained for almost two years simply for criticizing the Vietnam Communist Party and its leadership, even though the government has ratified international human rights law that unequivocally protects their actions,” said Asian Director at HRW Brad Adams.
“This is a textbook example of the authorities’ stamping out legitimate criticism and perpetuating a climate of fear in which people are forced to think twice before expressing themselves and asking questions of government,” said Champa Patel, director of the South East Asia Regional Office of Amnesty International.
Mr. Vinh, a son of a senior communist official, co-founded Anh Ba Sam news website in 2007. His blog has posted many articles on sensitive issues such as systemic corruption, multi-party democracy, Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea, and the poor government management in socio-economic issues which are taboos for the state-run media.
His website has become very popular among online readers, providing them many news with different points of views. It has drawn attention of millions of Vietnamese people.
Vinh, a former security officer, and his assistant were arrested in early May 2014.
Regarding the arrest of the bloggers, the European Union (EU) raised its concerns about human rights violations in Vietnam as well as restrictions to freedom of expression, freedom of the media and freedom of assembly. It reiterated its serious concerns about harassment, arrest and detention of human rights defenders, activists and bloggers, especially Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy.
The hard sentences imposed over Minh and Thuy are part of the Vietnamese communist government’s efforts to silence political dissidents, social activists, online bloggers and human rights defenders in a bid to maintain the country under a one-party regime.
According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is holding 130 political prisoners while the U.S. non-government organization Freedom House said Vietnam remains one of the world’s largest prisons for bloggers, with 29 netizens being imprisoned and at least eight Vietnamese bloggers were arrested or prosecuted under Article 258.
Two Police Officers Promoted to Three-star Generals amid Intensified Crackdown
Defend the Defenders: Outgoing Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang on March 22 promoted Deputy Ministers of Public Security Nguyen Van Thanh and Pham Dung to senior lieutenant general amid increasing crackdown against peaceful political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders.
Thanh, a member of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, and Dung are two of nine deputy ministers of the Ministry of Public Security, the most powerful ministry in the communist nation.
The promotion raised the number of the three-star generals in the ministry to eight. Only the remaining one is with the lieutenant general rank.
Deputy Minister To Lam, who was elected to the party’s highest decision-making body Politburo, is likely to become the next minister of Public Security in April when incumbent Minister General Tran Dai Quang is set to succeed President Sang.
Meanwhile, a number of social activists have been imprisoned or detained without being tried for long period. In addition, many political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders have complained that they are constant subjects of the government-based harassment, intimidation and persecution.
On March 23, the communist government holds a trial for prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, nearly two years after their detention in early May 2014. The two are charged of ““abusing democratic freedoms” in May 2014 in connection with political blogs which were critical of government policies. The pair face a sentence of up to seven years’ imprisonment if convicted under Article 258 of the country’s Penal Code.
Other political dissidents in police’s custody include Tran Anh Kim and Le Thanh Tung, blogger Nguyen Ngoc Gia.
Many social activists have been beaten and harassed by uniformed police and plainclothes agents, according to social networks and foreign media. Victims include former political prisoners Tran Minh Nhat, Pham Minh Hoang, Do Thi Minh Hanh and Truong Minh Duc and social activists Tran Thuy Nga, Truong Minh Huong, and Truong Van Dung.
Vietnamese communists, who have ruled the country for decades, have vowed to keep the country under a one-party regime. Minister Quang, who is set to succeed President Sang in early April, has labeled unsanctioned civil society organizations as “anti-reactionary groups.”
Vietnam Cop Sentenced to 102 Months in Jail for Beating School Boy to Death
Defend the Defenders: The People’s Court in Vietnam’s central province of Khanh Hoa on March 23 sentenced police officer Le Minh Phat to eight and half years in prison for illegal detention and beating to death a local school boy, state media has reported.
Phat, a policeman in Van Long commune, Van Ninh district, was requested to pay a compensation of VND105 million ($4,667) for the family of victim Tu Ngoc Thach.
His colleague Le Ngoc Tam, found guilty of illegal arrest of 14-year-old Thach, was given one year in probation while Le Tan Khoe, a son of a local policeman, was sentenced to three years in prison for beating the victim.
The incident happened on Dec 29, 2013 when Khoe and Thach had dispute. Police officers Phat and Tam, who were on holiday that day, illegally detained Thach to a local communal police station.
After handcuffing Thach on an agricultural field where the boy hide from chasing police, Phat severely beat Thach on his body. During interrogation in the police station, Phat, a boxer wining provincial prizes in 1988-1999, continued to attack the school boy.
The victim was torture in the police station over an hour before being released in evening. The boy died from severe injuries caused by police later.
Policemen Phat and Tam said Huynh Trung Thang, deputy head of the Van Phuc communal police, also beat Thach, however, Thang remained unprosecuted.
In June last year, the People’s Court in Van Ninh district sentenced two relatives of Thach to 15 months in jail each on charge of disturbing social order. According to the indictment, Mr. Mai Dinh Tam and Mr. Nguyen Van Ly were guilty of conducting public disorders after their nephew was beaten to death by local policemen.
The court said fishermen Tam and Ly triggered the demonstration of thousands of local residents in the National Road No. 1 to protest the brutal attack of local policemen which caused the death of Thach, a ninth-grade student in Van Tho commune in the morning of Dec 31, 2013.
Both Tam and Ly objected the sentences, saying they had not cause any trouble, just screaming when they learned that their nephew was beaten to death by police.
Mr. Ly, the younger brother of Thach’s mother, said that he was forced to make fabricated confession by investigating officers during interrogation. The unlettered fisherman said he was signed the confession under pressure of a police officer named Cong.
Police power abuse is rampant in Vietnam, especially in communal level where few police officers have been trained.
According to the report of the Ministry of Public Security, 226 Vietnamese died in police stations and detention facilities in the 2010-2014. Dozens of detainee were beaten to death or suffered serious injuries from police torture last year.
The number of victims of police torture has reached nearly ten since January this year, according to local human rights activists.
======== March 24 ==============
Foreign Governments, Organizations Condemn Vietnam over Sentences of Bloggers
Defend the Defenders: A number of foreign governments and international human rights bodies, including the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders (CRD), the London-based Amnesty International and the New York-based Human Rights Watch have condemned Vietnam’s government over imprisoning prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy.
They strongly protested the heavy sentences imposed over the two bloggers given by the People’s Court of Hanoi at a hearing on March 23 which is considered “failed to meet international standards for fair trial.”
The court found that the two posted 24 articles which “distort the lines and policies of the party and law of the state, and vilify individuals,” and sentenced Mr. Vinh to five years and Ms. Thuy to three years in jail on anti-government charge under Article 258 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
In its press release dated March 24, RSF urges the Vietnamese authorities to quash the jail sentences passed on two citizen-journalists and reiterates its call for the repeal of Article 258, the article used to convict them, which penalizes “abusing democratic freedoms.”
“Citizen-journalists have yet again been jailed for wanting to provide their fellow citizens with independently reported news and information,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“The scale of this hypocrisy can be appreciated when you realize that many government and judicial officials were Anh Ba Sam’s sources. We urge the international community to put pressure on the Vietnamese authorities so that Vinh and Thuy do not serve these iniquitous sentences.”
On the same day, CRD calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the prominent human rights defender, his assistant and other imprisoned bloggers and urges Vietnamese authorities to stop persecution of human rights defenders and bloggers.
The imprisonments of Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy “is a clear case of the Vietnamese authorities using vaguely worded legal provisions as a tool to silence human rights defenders. Nguyen Huu Vinh has engaged in peaceful writing, not committed any crimes,” said Brittis Edman, South East Asia Program Director at CRD.
One day prior to the trial, Amnesty International said “The trial and continuing detention of a blogger and his assistant who have already spent almost two years in jail is farcical and a blight on the country’s human rights record.”
“This is a textbook example of the authorities’ stamping out legitimate criticism and perpetuating a climate of fear in which people are forced to think twice before expressing themselves and asking questions of government,” said Champa Patel, Director of the South East Asia Regional Office.
“They have committed no crime but have languished in pre-trial detention for almost two years in blatant violation of both Vietnamese and international law. This farce must end and they must be immediately released,” Mr. Patel said.
Human Rights Watch said “the Vietnamese government should release and drop all charges against two prominent bloggers.
“Vietnam’s friends and donors should publicly challenge the ludicrous charges against Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “They should demand that the government free all political prisoners and drop all pending charges against dissenting voices.”
According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam, a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects peaceful expression, including expression critical of governments and leaders, is imprisoning many bloggers.
Some Western governments, including the U.S., have often criticized Vietnam for jailing dissidents for peacefully expressing their views. Hanoi denies the charges, saying only those who break the law are put behind bars.
Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2015 World Press Freedom Index.
Mobile Police in Vietnam’s Central Accused of Severely Assaulting Two Boys
Defend the Defenders: Ho Hai Anh and Le Anh Vu, both 16, from Vietnam’s central province of Nghe An have complained that they were severe beaten by local mobile police for not wearing helmet while riding motorbike, state media has reported.
The incident happened on March 19 when the two boys were riding their motorbike on streets of Vinh city, a group of six mobile police stopped them as they detected driver Vu without protective equipment.
When Anh tried to use his cell phone to call his relatives, the police disagreed. The police officers took the duo to a remote area in Cua Nam Lake and beat them although the boys begged for mercy. Later, policemen brought the boys to the Vinh Market and left, the victims said.
“After beating us, the policemen brought us to the Vinh Market but not police’s headquarters for imposing administrative fines. I was luckily conscious and brought my friend to a hospital for urgent emergency,” Anh told reporters of the Dan Tri newswire.
According to their families, the medical tests issued by Vinh General Hospital showed that Anh has broken skull and many other severe injuries on many parts of his body while Vu has pain in his breast.
The Police Department in Nghe An province said they will verify the case.
Mobile police and traffic police are among most corrupted groups in Vietnam. Many people have complained that they have to bribe them for minor traffic faults. There are a number of cases in which people have been brutally beaten, some cases led to death after arguing with traffic and mobile police, according to state media and social networks.
Vietnam Corruption Fighter Imprisoned Over Seven Months, Second Within 9 Years
Defend the Defenders: The People’s Court in Vietnam’s central province of Thanh Hoa on March 24 sentenced 73-year-old corruption fighter Dinh Tat Thang to seven months and 11 days on charge of “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 Penal Code.
This is the second imprisonment on the same charge against Mr. Thang from Xuan Bai commune in Tho Xuan district within nine years. In January 2008, he was sentenced to nine months for filling denunciations against provincial and district officials, accusing them of committing wrongdoings in implementing socio-economic tasks.
After being released, he continued his denunciations and the authorities said his denunciations and petitions are fabricated, defaming many senior officials of the central government, Thanh Hoa province and Tho Xuan district.
Mr. Thang is among many Vietnamese arrested for anti-corruption works although the communist government has pledged to protect and give high rewards for people who help the government deal with corruption which is systemic in the one-party regime.
On July 29 last year, Ha Nam province-based Nguyen Van Thien was sentenced to four years in jail for causing public disorders pursuant to Article 245 of the Penal Code for his anti-corruption efforts.
Earlier, Mr. Thien bravely accused local cadres for committing wrongdoings when enforcing government policies for families which contributed to the country’s revolution, and for illegal land seizure affecting 29 war-invalid and war-martyr families in the commune.
Mr. Thang is the third Vietnamese sentenced on charge of “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 258 of the Penal Code within two days. On March 23, the People’s Court of Hanoi sentenced prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh, co-founder of well-known Ba Sam news website to five years in jail and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy to three years for posting 24 articles which “distorted the ruling Communist Party’s policies, reduced public trust in the party, and went against the interests of the nation”, according to the court’s indictments.
In the one-party Vietnam, the ruling communists have not tolerated any criticism and the government has used controversial articles such as Article 79, 88, 245 and 258 of the Penal Code to silence local dissidents.
According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnam held over 200 prisoners of conscience in 2013 and the current total number of such prisoners is at least 130.
Vietnam has always denied to holding any prisoner of conscience but only law violators.
=========== March 25========
Vietnam Well-known Journalist Severely Beaten by Thugs
Defend the Defenders: Journalist Do Doan Hoang from Vietnam’s state-controlled Lao Dong newspaper was brutally beaten by three thugs in Hanoi in the morning of March 23, state media has reported.
Hoang, 40, was attacked by thugs with wooden batons in the city’s outskirt during field trip near Kim Lu urban area. He suffered a number of injuries on his body, with one finger broken.
After getting urgent emergency, he reported the assault to the local police. Prior to the attack, he received a number of threats by sms messages.
Mr. Hoang, who received national awards on journalism four times for brave reports on hot topics, said he has no personal disputes with anybody. He suggested that the attackers were hired from those who are affected by his articles.
Hoang is one of numerous Vietnamese reporters suffering from attacks of thugs and police.
Vietnam’s First Juvenile Court to Debut in HCMC in April
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam will establish its first juvenile court in Ho Chi Minh City next month in a bid to improve its justice system and handle cases of young offenders better, the Thanh Nien newspaper reported Wednesday.
The court will run on a trial basis dealing with offenders under 18 years old, before being expanded to other provinces and cities, Truong Hoa Binh, chief of the Supreme People’s Court, said at a meeting last week.
Chu Thanh Quang, deputy chief of Legal Affairs Department of the Supreme People’s Court, said that the establishment of the new court shows Vietnam’s commitment to protecting child rights in accordance with international conventions.
It also marks an important event in Vietnam’s ongoing efforts to improve its justice system, Quang said, adding the court will be “friendly” with children who attend hearings either as victims or defendants.
While statistics on juvenile crimes in Vietnam are sketchy and not up to date, local media reported last year that underage offenders accounted for more than 16% of criminals charged around the country between 2009 and June 2014.
Battery and robbery were the most common offenses among Vietnamese young people according to the center for criminal studies under the Hanoi-based Vietnamese People’s Police Academy.
On the other hand, new figures released by the Ministry of Public Security showed 9,920 children were victimized in more than 8,200 cases of abuse discovered over the past five years, local media reported early this year.
Up to 65% of the victims were sexually assaulted, according to the reports.
The age of criminal responsibility in Vietnam is 14, but children between 14 and 16 years old can only be prosecuted on a case-by-case basis if they deliberately commit “very serious” crimes.
=========== March 27===========
Many Hanoi-based Activists Summoned for Gathering near Court Areas on March 23
Defend the Defenders: Many social activists in Hanoi have been summoned by local authorities for questioning after they participated in peaceful demonstration outside of the courtroom of the trial against prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) and his assistant Ms. Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy on March 23.
In their letters sent to Hanoi-based activists, police said they want to clarify the presence of the summoned on the areas near the court building.
Among summoned are bloggers Le Hoang, Nguyen Thi Thuy Hanh, Dang Phuong Bich and Ngo Duy Quyen. They were among hundreds of social activists wanting to participate in the open trial against Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy, however, they were not allowed to enter the courtroom and were forced to stay together with diplomats from Germany, Sweden and Finland in street far from the court building.
While monitoring the trial from distance, activists and land petitioners hang up banners and chanted “Bloggers Vinh and Thuy are innocent” or “Free bloggers Vinh and Thuy immediately”.
Police shortly detained prominent economist Nguyen Quang A and blogger Nguyen Dinh Ha as well as a number of land petitioners when they gathered there.
Mr. A, Mr. Ha, Ms. Hanh and Ms. Phuong are self-nominees for the upcoming general election for the country’s parliament scheduled on May 22.
The summoned activists have rejected the “invitations”, saying they did nothing wrong but exercise their right of freedom of assembly.
Recently, the Ministry of Public Security issued Circular 13 which became effective on March 24 and empowers the security to suppress and detain social activists being near the areas of the court building during political trials or other trials on sensitive cases.
The detainees would face allegation of causing public disorders which may bring imprisonment up to seven years in jail.
Five Political Prisoners End Hunger Strike After Authorities Partly Agree to Their Requests
Five political prisoners Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, Nguyen Dinh Kha, Tran Vu Anh Binh and Lieu Ly have agreed to end their hunger strike on the 13th day after the authorities in Xuyen Moc prison agreed to accept their requests.
On March 23, they started eating after the prison’s authorities agreed to allow them sharing food and sending mails to their families.
Thuc, who is serving his 16-year imprisonment on charge of anti-state activities under Article 79 of the Penal Code, and his friends started the hunger strike on March 11 to protest the prison’s ban on sharing food among prisoners, and keeping their emails which have been addressed to their families.
Many Vietnamese prisoners of conscience have complained that they have been treated inhumanely by prisons’ authorities.