Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly August 29-September 04: French President Urged to Address Human Rights Issues in Upcoming Visit to Vietnam

Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly | September 04, 2016

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On September 2, three days ahead of the official visit of French President François Hollande to Vietnam, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organizations, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) and the French League for Human Rights (LDH), sent their joint letter to the French leader to ask him to address human rights issues in talks with Vietnamese leaders during his three-day trip starting on September 5.

In their joint letter, the three organizations described Vietnam’s ongoing suppression against government critics and members of civil society. Activists and human rights defenders have been regularly subjected to physical assault, surveillance, restrictions on their freedom of movement, and arbitrary arrest and detention.

Vietnam’s authorities have placed youth activist Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy in a solitary cell immediately after a trial on August 23 in which he was sentenced to three years in jail on allegation of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code. His mother expressed her concerns that he may not be provided materials for submitting an appealing letter to challenge the sentence given to him in a trial which failed to meet international standards for fair trial.

After the trial of Duy and his cousin Nguyen Huu Thien An, Amnesty International issued a statement saying their convictions have showed Vietnam’s failure to address the increased willingness of local people to express dissent. The London-based human rights group is also concerned about the detentions of 12 people, including Duy’s mother on the trial day by the local authorities in a bid to prevent them from entering the open trial.

Dr. Nguyen Quang A, a leading social activist in Vietnam, has been nominated for the Dutch Human Rights Tulip, an annual prize to a human rights defender or organization who promotes and supports human rights in innovative ways. The Hungary-trained technocrat will be one of the last 10 nominees who will participate in the public voting round.

Vietnamese in the central province of Ha Tinh continue their massive demonstrations to protest the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant, asking the government to close the steel mill and pay for people who have been affected by the plant’s illegal discharge of toxic industrial waste.

And many other important news.

===== August 29 =====

Prominent Vietnamese Dissident Solid Contender for Dutch Human Rights Tulip

Defend the Defenders: Dr. Nguyen Quang A, a leading social activist in Vietnam, has been nominated for the Dutch Human Rights Tulip, an annual prize to a human rights defender or organization who promotes and supports human rights in innovative ways.

The Hungary-trained technocrat will be one of 10 nominees who will participate in the public voting round.

Earlier, Justice & Peace, a non-government organization, selected the ten nominees from 91 candidates proposed by human rights bodies worldwide. Justice & Peace selected Mr. Quang A because he encourages citizens to claim their rights, which are enshrined in the Constitution in Vietnam; and he inspires a large number of young people with his approach.

The prize’s official profile of Mr. Quang A reads as follows:

“Since 2013, Vietnam has had a new Constitution, one which enshrines human rights for its citizens. However, there exists a gap between the rights that are written down in the Constitution and the reality of life in Vietnam.

Mr. Nguyen Quang A reveals this gap by his actions. In practice, freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution are severely limited by administrative procedures and repressive actions by the authorities. This encourages and promotes self-censorship by the Vietnamese population.

Through online intimidation and harassment the authorities attempt to discredit and discourage citizens from demanding their legitimate rights.

However, Mr Quang A refuses to self-censor himself and stands up for his rights. For instance, he tried to run for the National Assembly as an independent candidate. His failure to get through the vetting process raised legitimate questions about the level of democracy in Vietnam. It should be noted that expressing dissent is highly unusual in Vietnam.

Mr. Quang A refuses to bow to implicit and explicit pressure. However, Mr. Quang A is increasingly experiencing harassments such as limitation of his movements, intimidation of family members and he was recently even temporarily detained on several occasions.

His work becomes more visible in unofficial media in Vietnam and reflects a level of courage that is rare.

Mr. Quang A is able to inspire a large number of young people through his online and offline activities. His success in claiming rights results in greater opportunities for other citizens to do the same, thereby supporting a nation-wide change for better respected human rights.”

The international community can now vote on their preferred candidate until 7 September, to reach a shortlist of three finalists. The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs will then select the winner and award the Human Rights Tulip on December 10, the International Human Rights Day.

You can vote for your favorite candidate here: http://www.humanrightstulip.nl/candidates-and-voting

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Conviction of Activists Shows Vietnam’s Retrograde Attitude to Human Rights: Amnesty International

Defend the Defenders: The convictions of two young activists Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy and Nguyen Huu Thien An on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state” have showed Vietnam’s failure to address the increased willingness of local people to express dissent, Amnesty International has said.

The London-based human rights organization made the statement on Aug 27, four days after the People’s Court in the central province of Khanh Hoa found the duo guilty of the charge under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code and sentenced Duy to three years and An to two years in prison.

An, 21, was arrested in August 2015 for spray-painting the initials “DMCS”, which translates as “Fuck Communism”, on the wall of a police station. Duy, 31, An’s cousin, was detained in November last year after posting comments on Facebook in support of An.

Amnesty International said however offensive “DMCS” may be, painting the letters is protected by the right to freedom of expression. International human rights law protects expression that may be regarded as deeply offensive. And while it could be legitimate to treat an act of spray painting on a police station as a minor act of criminal damage, an offence of “conducting propaganda against the state”, particularly when applied to a statement which does not incite violence, is not consistent with international human rights law.

The UN Human Rights Committee has explicitly underlined that states should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as their administration. The same applies to criticism of political parties or systems, the human rights organization said.

One day ahead of the trial, Amnesty International wrote to the Permanent Office on Human Rights of Vietnam outlining concerns arising from violations of Duy’s fair trial rights. Since his arrest, he has been held incommunicado, denied effective communication with his family who were also prevented from assisting him to obtain a lawyer of his choice, as is his right under Article 14 of the ICCPR which sets out the essential elements of the right to fair trial.

The UK’s non-government organization said it is also concerned by the arbitrary arrests of 12 people who tried to attend the so-called open trial and were prevented from doing so when they were detained for some hours and then released without charge. Eleven were arrested as they travelled from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang city, where the trial was taking place, in violation of their right to freedom of movement. Duy’s mother was arrested outside the court house, being dragged by the hair into a police car and detained in a local police station for the duration of the hearing.

Vietnam has repeatedly pointed to its seat on the Human Rights Council as evidence that it respects human rights, Amnesty International said, adding while it takes positive note of Vietnam’s engagement with international human rights bodies, the prosecutions of Duy and An and the arrests of their supporters indicate that at home it is business as usual for the authorities in the Southeast Asian nation, which continues to violate rights guaranteed by the Vietnamese constitution and international human rights treaties to which it is a state party.

Amnesty International said the convictions of Duy and An must be quashed and they must be released immediately.

Viet Nam: Conviction of youth activists highlights authorities’retrograde attitude to human rights

===== August 30 =====

Vietnam Prisoner of Conscience Placed in Solitary Cell after Trial, Not Allowed to Meet Family

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s central province of Khanh Hoa have placed Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy in a solitary cell immediately after a trial on August 23 in which he was sentenced to three years in jail on allegation of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code, his family told Defend the Defenders (DTD).

Speaking with DTD, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Nay, the mother of Duy, said that on August 29, she went to the Phuoc Dong prison in Nha Trang city where he is held and asked to visit him, however, the prison’s authorities said they were not permitted by the province’s Police Department to allow him to meet with his relatives.

However, the Khanh Hoa province’s Police Department denied to give such a ban, Mrs. Nay said.

Other sources say that Duy is placed in solitary confinement after the trial on Tuesday last year in which he was defended by a lawyer appointed by the local authorities although his family already asked human rights lawyer Vo An Don to provide legal assistance for him. In addition, Mrs. Nay was detained by local police on the court day so she was unable to attend the trial.

Mrs. Nay expressed her concerns that the prison’s authorities may not provide papers and pencils for her son so he will not able to write a letter to ask for appeal.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Huu Thien An, Duy’s cousin, was given a lighter sentence of two years in prison after he confessed for wrongdoing and begged for mercy from the court. His family was allowed to visit An immediately after the trial.

Vietnam’s authorities have continued its suppression against prisoners of conscience even after trials, especially in cases in which the sentenced prisoners have not admitted their wrongdoings.

In Vietnam’s prisons, prisoners of conscience are facing inhumane treatments of prisons’ authorities who try to break their mentality. In addition to solitary confinements, prisoners may not be allowed to receive material supports from their families or are forced to work hard without being paid.

Many political prisoners have conducted hunger strikes to protest inhumane treatments against them and other inmates.

For more information about the trial of Duy and An, please read (http://www.vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net/2016/08/23/vietnam-imprisons-two-activists-for-anti-state-propaganda-allegation/)

http://www.vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net/2016/08/30/vietnam-prisoner-of-conscience-placed-in-solitary-cell-after-trial-not-allowed-to-meet-family/

===== August 31 =====

One More Citizen Dies I Police Custody

Defend the Defenders: On August 29, relatives of Mr. Dinh Hong Quan was informed that he died while being held in a police detention facility in Dien Chau district, Nghe An province. The local authorities have not unveiled the cause of his death.

Mr. Quan, 56, was in pre-trial detention waiting for a trial on an allegation of illegal possession of weapon. His older sister Dinh Thi Ha said he was healthy on August 28 when she met him for five minutes in the detention facility.

Quan had no disease before being arrested in October last year. He was held for using fake documents to travel abroad, and when police searched his private house, they found a unregistered gun. His family said the gun, brought by his father from Laos, is defective and out of use.

Quan was sentenced to 30 months for using fake documents, and waiting for a trial for illegal possession of weaponry.

Quan is one of many Vietnamese citizens who died in police facilities under suspicious circumstances this year, according to state media.

Nghệ An: Thêm một trường hợp tử vong trong đồn công an

===== September 01 =====

Canadian FM Urged to Request Vietnam to Respect Human Rights

Defend the Defenders: Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion should request Vietnam’s government to respect human rights during his visit to Vietnam on September 3-8, said Senator Ngo Thanh Hai, who is of Vietnamese descent.

In his press release on September 01, Senator Hai said the Canadian top diplomat, in his first official visit to the communist nation, should pay attention to human rights situation in Vietnam where the government is intensifying its crackdown against local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders.

Canada should call on Vietnam’s government to release prisoners of conscience, including human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and entrepreneur Tran Huynh Duy Thuc as well as Christian pastors and Buddhist monks who were arrested and sentenced to prisons under controversial provisions of the Penal Code, Senator Hai said.

Vietnam’s state media has reported that Minister Dion is visiting the Southeast Asian nation at the invitation of Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh in a bid to strengthen bilateral ties.

Vietnam-Canada economic ties have developed fast recently, with bilateral trade hitting $4 billion last year. Canada’s firms have invested over $5.28 billion in Vietnam so far.

Canada has been providing official development assistance for Vietnam since 1990, with focus on economic reform and poverty eradication.

Canada cần đề cập vấn đề nhân quyền với Việt Nam

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Thousands of Vietnamese Hold Demonstration in Ky Anh to Demand Formosa’s Closure

Defend the Defenders: On September 1, thousands of local residents in Vietnam’s central town of Ky Anh held a peaceful demonstration to request the government to close the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant and pay compensation for the people affected by the environmental disaster caused by illegal discharge of toxic industrial waste of the Taiwanese Formosa Plastic Group.

Vietnam’s authorities deployed a large number of police and militia to break the protest. Local social networks reported that the police clashed with demonstrators, however, there was no records about injuries or detentions.

Ky Anh town is the most affected locality in the central coastal region as the Formosa steel plant is located in the town. Tens of thousands of local fishermen have no jobs as the local sea water is heavily contaminated with toxic chemicals.

They have received modest financial assistance from the government.

Meanwhile, the Taiwanese company completed its payment of $500 million as compensation for causing the environmental catastrophe.

Biểu tình ở Kỳ Anh đòi đóng cửa Formosa

===== September 02 =====

French President Urged to Address Human Rights Issues in Upcoming Visit to Vietnam

By Defend the Defenders: On September 2, three days ahead of the official visit of French President François Hollande to Vietnam, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organizations, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) and the French League for Human Rights (LDH) sent their joint letter to the French leader to ask him to address human rights issues in talks with local leaders during his three-day trip starting on September 5.

In their joint letter, the three organizations described Vietnam’s ongoing suppression against government critics and members of civil society. Activists and human rights defenders have been regularly subjected to physical assault, surveillance, restrictions on their freedom of movement, and arbitrary arrest and detention.

In addition, Vietnamese courts have continued to sentence activists and human rights defenders to prison terms for merely exercising their right to freedom of expression, such as prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh, also known as Anh Ba Sam, condemned to five years in prison in March 2016, FIDH and its two members said.

Over the past four months, authorities have violently cracked down on a wave of nationwide peaceful protests organized in response to an unprecedented environmental disaster that caused massive fish deaths and seriously affected the livelihood of many communities in Vietnam’s central provinces. In many cases, security forces severely beat and arbitrarily arrested scores of participants, they noted.

Vietnam has now the dubious distinction of holding the largest number of political prisoners among Southeast Asian countries. Vietnam currently has approximately 130 dissidents behind bars, they noted.

FIDH, VCHR and LDH said President Hollande should press Vietnam’s leaders to order the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and to end all acts of harassment against activists and human rights defenders.

Existing legislation criminalizes the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and the right to freedom of religion or belief. Of particular concern are broadly-interpreted “national security” provisions in the Criminal Code that provide the legal means for the authorities’ relentless repression of dissent. These provisions, several of which make no distinction between acts of terrorism and expression of peaceful dissent, and prescribe the death penalty, are inconsistent with Vietnam’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the three human rights organizations said.

Recently, Vietnam amended its Penal Code and abolished the death penalty for seven crimes. However, 18 offenses still carry the death penalty. FIDH and its two affiliates urge President Hollande to call on Vietnam’s leaders to take urgent steps to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

They said the draft Law on Belief and Religion which will likely be voted on very soon, is a serious step backwards for freedom of religion and belief in Vietnam and would violate the country’s international obligations under Article 18 of the ICCPR. The proposed law would legalize state interference in religious life by introducing a draconian system of registration for religious groups. The draft law would exacerbate restrictions on members of “non-recognized” religious groups, who already suffer harassment and arbitrary arrest and detention, they said.

President Hollande should raise the above-mentioned issues in his dialogue with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and demand that the government respect, promote, and fulfill human rights principles in accordance with the country’s international obligations and the numerous recommendations made by various human rights mechanisms of the United Nations, said FIDH.

FIDH, VCHR and LDH expressed their hope that during his planned speech at the Vietnam National University in Hanoi, President Hollande will show his support of independent civil society. It would be very valuable for Vietnamese people, especially young generation make increasing demands for democratic reforms and respect for human rights and the rule of law if they know that France stands with them, they said.

France must promote “Liberty, equality, and fraternity” in Vietnam where severe obstacles to the full enjoyment of key civil and political rights still remain, FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos, VCHR President Vo Van Ai and LDH President Françoise Dumont said in the joint letter.

Open letter to French President François Hollande on the situation of human rights in Vietnam

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