Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly July 31-August 06, 2017: Vietnam Continues Persecution against Brotherhood for Democracy, Arresting Its Spokesman

 

Defend the Defenders |August 06, 2017

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Vietnam’s communist government has continued its crackdown against Brotherhood for Democracy, detaining its Spokesman Nguyen Trung Truc.

On August 4, police in the central province of Quang Binh arrested Truc, who is also responsible for the organization’s training, and charged him with “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the People’s Administration” under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code.

Truc has been under constant harassment of Vietnam’s security forces due to his activism. Last year, he and other seven activists were kidnapped, barbarically beaten and robbed by plainclothes agents.

The arrest of Mr. Truc was made five days after the detention of four members of Brotherhood for Democracy namely Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc and Nguyen Bac Truyen. All of them were charged with subversion under Article 79.

After their arrest, Amnesty International issued a statement calling Vietnam to release them and drop all charges against them, saying they just exercise their rights of freedom of expression and association which are enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in which Vietnam is a state party.

During the week, police also detained arrested Tran Tuan Kiet, a lecture of the Can Tho College, and charged him with “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 for his writing on Facebook.

Many international human rights organizations including Amnesty International and ARTICLE 19 continue to demand Vietnam release human rights activist Tran Thi Nga and other prisoners of conscience. Amnesty International calls on international community to write petitions to Vietnam’s leaders to request for immediate and unconditional release all activists who have been peacefully carrying out activities to promote and protect human rights and/or peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, opinion or belief, assembly, and/or association.

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===== July 31 =====

Amnesty International Launches Campaign Calling for Release of Tran Thi Nga

Defend the Defenders: Amnesty International has launched a campaign urging international community to send petitions to Vietnamese leaders to call for immediate and unconditional release of human rights defender Tran Thi Nga, who was sentenced to nine years in jail and additional five years under house arrest by an unfair trial on July 25.

Ms. Nga, the mother of four children, two of them are seven and four years old, was convicted with charges ““conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code. She was accused of “posting video clips and documents containing anti-state propaganda on the internet”. At the trial, the court reportedly relied upon 13 videos – 11 posted on her Facebook accounts and two allegedly found on her computer – as evidence supporting the charge. The videos related to issues such as pollution of the environment and corruption.

Article 88 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code falls under Chapter XI of the law, which sets out, in broad and ill-defined terms, offences that are purported to “infringe upon national security”; provisions from this chapter are frequently used to criminalize peaceful dissent in Vietnam.

Nga had been subjected to physical violence, harassment and intimidation in response to her human rights work in the past. In May 2014, she was reportedly attacked on the street by five men in plain clothes, resulting in serious injuries. While held in pre-trial detention this year her health deteriorated as a result of a mucosal injury related to the 2014 attack. As of June 2017, she had been prevented by prison authorities from receiving medical treatment for the injury.

Amnesty International asked people worldwide to write to call on Vietnam’s leadership to:

– Immediately release Nga from prison and quash the conviction and sentence against her;

– Ensure that until she is released, she is treated in full accordance with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for   the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules), including promptly providing adequate medical care;

– Ensure an immediate end to arbitrary arrests, prosecutions, and harassment of human rights defenders    and activists. Uphold and facilitate the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

The appeals should be sent before September 10, 2017 to Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Minister of Public Security To Lam and Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh.

Full statement: Urgent Action Female Activist Sentenced to Nine Years In Prison

===== August 01 =====

Amnesty International Calls on Vietnam to Release Political Dissidents

Defend the Defenders: On August 1, Amnesty International issued a statement calling on Vietnam’s communist government to release those who have been peacefully carrying out activities to promote and protect human rights and/or peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, opinion or belief, assembly, and/or association.

The call was made few days after Vietnam arrested four former prisoners of conscience namely Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc and Nguyen Bac Truyen, and charged them with “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the People’s Administration” under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code. The offence, which falls under the vaguely worded “national security” section of the Code, provides for a sentence of up to life imprisonment or capital punishment.

The arrests were in connection with imprisoned human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who was detained together with his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha on December 16, 2015.

The detentions are part of an intensifying crackdown on the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association in Vietnam that has seen lengthy prison sentences handed down to two prominent human rights defenders in the last five weeks. Prior to the most recent arrests, at least seven other activists had been arrested in the last six months, said Amnesty International.

Vietnam is in the midst of a sustained crackdown on human rights, Amnesty International said, adding, two prominent human rights defenders Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and Tran Thi Nga were convicted of “conducting propaganda” against the state and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences in the last five weeks.

Vietnam has also arrested other activists, including Tran Hoang Phuc and Le Dinh Luong, it noted.

Amnesty International urges the Vietnamese authorities to comply with Viet Nam’s human rights obligations, and drop all charges against them.

The London-based human rights organization said Vietnam, as a state party, is legally obliged to abide by, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The ICCPR also protects the right to freedom of opinion and expression (Article 19), peaceful assembly (Article 21), and association (Article 22). It also protects the right to liberty and security of a person, which includes the right to not be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention (Article 9), it said.

Amnesty International urged international community to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the current crackdown on human rights in Viet Nam, and advocate for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience.

Full statement: Viet Nam: Four peaceful activists arbitrarily arrested in connection with long-detained human rights lawyer

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Vietnam: Immediately free human rights blogger Tran Thi Nga

ARTICLE 19: ARTICLE 19 calls for the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defender and blogger Tran Thi Nga who has been sentenced to nine years in prison and five years’ probation on charges of “spreading propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of the Penal Code. The verdict runs counter to international human rights standards on freedom of expression. We urge the government to repeal Article 88 and stop criminalizing political dissidents.

Tran Thi Nga, also known as Thuy Nga, was sentenced on 25 July 2017 in the People’s Court of Ha Nam Province after six months of incommunicado pre-trial detention for posting a number of videos and articles critical of the government. The verdict ruled that Nga produced and posted online videos on her personal blog, Facebook and Youtube accounts. The videos had highlighted state violations of human rights and called for pluralism in Vietnam. International monitors, fellow activists and her family were not allowed to attend the court proceedings, which has raised concerns about the fairness and transparency of the trial.

The harsh sentencing of Tran Thi Nga is the most recent attack targeting the mother of two. Before her arrest, she had been victimized for years by officials, and faced intimidation, harassment and physical assault. According to her lawyer, despite her deteriorating health one month prior to the trial, her requests to seek medical treatment at a hospital were rejected.

As a prominent human rights activist in Vietnam’s online space, as well as a member of the executive board of Vietnamese Women for Human Rights Group, Tran Thi Nga has been a vocal actor in exposing trafficking, police brutality and land confiscation. She has persistently exhibited her support for peer bloggers and activists, and visited the houses of political prisoners to show solidarity. Most recently, she actively participated in protests against the Chinese presence in the South China/East Vietnam Sea, the environmental catastrophe caused by the Taiwanese steel plant Formosa, as well as assisted the affected community in filing lawsuits.

The sentencing of Tran Thi Nga comes less than one month after the trial of another well-known female human rights activist and blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as “Mother Mushroom” (“Mẹ Nấm”). The detention and trial of Tran Thi Nga, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, among other peaceful political dissidents run contrary to Vietnam’s international and domestic commitments. Vietnam ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1982, Article 19 of which guarantees the right to freedom of expression. This fundamental right has been echoed in Article 25 of Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution. However, Article 88 of the Penal code is often evoked to charge human rights bloggers for propaganda, defamation, and making or storing of materials against the state with up to 12 years imprisonment. This provision falls far outside the permitted limitations to freedom of expression established under Article 19 of the ICCPR. Worryingly, this article has not been changed in the revised Penal Code, which has been recently passed by the National Assembly and will come into effect in 2018.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Vietnamese government to quash the conviction of Tran Thi Nga and unconditionally free her from prison. Moreover, the government should take immediate steps to repeal all laws that criminalize voice of the opposition, and end its ongoing crackdown on political dissidents in all forms.

===== August 02 =====

Vietnam Arrests College Lecturer, Accusing Him of Abusing Democratic Freedom

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s southern city of Can Tho have arrested Tran Tuan Kiet, a lecture of the Can Tho College, and charged him with “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 country’s 1999 Penal Code, according to state media.

The Investigation Agency in Ninh Kieu district, which carried out the arrest, also conducted search in Mr. Kiet’s office, media said on Wednesday.

According to the Phap Luat Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh newspaper, police in Can Tho received a denunciation against Mr. Kieu on May 23 which says he had a threat of conducting murder.

During the investigation, police in Can Tho found that Kiet “had abused democratic freedom to infringe upon the interest of the Can Tho College and its Rector Tran Thanh Liem,” the paper said.

Earlier this year, Mr. Kiet was disciplined by the college’s leadership which considered his writing on Facebook affecting leaders of the institution.

On February 2, the communist party’s Committee of the Can Tho College imposed warning as disciplined measure for Mr. Kiet who is head of the institution’s Department of Inspection-Judicial Affairs.

Kiet was the person denouncing the improper promotion of Dr. Ho Thanh Tam as vice rector of the institution.

With the charge, Kieu, who obtained a master degree, will face imprisonment of up to three years in jail, according to Vietnam’s current law.

===== August 4 =====

Vietnam Continues Crackdown against Brotherhood for Democracy, Arresting Its Spokesman

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam has continued its crackdown against Brotherhood for Democracy, arresting its Spokesman Nguyen Trung Truc after a mass detention on July 30.

On August 4, security forces detained Mr. Truc at his home in the central province of Quang Binh and charged him with “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code.

Police also conducted search in his private house and took away his computers, cell phones and other personal items.

Mr. Truc is a former prisoner of conscience. After being released, he continues his activities which aim to promote human rights and democracy in Vietnam.

Due to his activism, he has been targeted by Vietnam’s security forces. In early July last year, he and other seven activists from Quang Binh went to Nghe An to attend a wedding party of Nguyen Hai, another member of Brotherhood for Democracy. However, the group was kidnapped by plainclothes agents who took them to a remote area where they beat and robbed all their belongings including wallets and cellphones before leaving.

The arrest of Mr. Truc is part of Vietnam’s intensifying persecution against Brotherhood for Democracy which is considered by the ruling communist party as a potential threat for its political monopoly in the Southeast Asian nation.

On July 30, the Ministry of Public Security arrested four former political prisoners Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Trung Ton, Truong Minh Duc and Nguyen Bac Truyen, co-founders of Brotherhood for Democracy together with prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who was arrested on December 16, 2016.

The five-newly arrested activists and Mr. Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha are charged with subversion under Article 79 of the Penal Code. In 2015, Mr. Dai and Ms. Ha were charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code.

With the new charges, the seven activists are facing imprisonment of between twelve and twenty years of imprisonment, life imprisonment or capital punishment if are convicted, according to the country’s current law.

Mr. Ton is currently the president of Brotherhood for Democracy while Mr. Troi is its former leader. Mr. Truyen was said to leave the organization and became leader of Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association.

Mr. Duc, 57, is the current vice president of Viet Labor Movement which fights for rights of workers in the Southeast Asian nation.

The arrests and allegations are part of Vietnam’s intensifying crackdown against local political dissidents, human rights advocates, social activists and independent bloggers amid increasing social dissatisfaction on systemic corruption, economic mismanagement, heavy environmental pollution and other problems that the Southeast Asian nation is facing.

On July 26, police in the central province of Nghe An arrested Le Dinh Luong and charged him with “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the Penal Code.

Within one month from June 29, Vietnam sentenced two human rights defenders Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and Tran Thi Nga to nine and ten years in jail, respectively on charges of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code.

Dozens of activists have been arrested and many of them sentenced to heavy imprisonments since the beginning of 2016 when the ruling communist party held its National Congress to elect the new leadership for the 2016-2020 period, with many police generals being selected to key positions of the party and state apparatuses.

The communist government has strived to keep the country under a one-party regime and make all effort to prevent the formation of opposition party.

The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, foreign governments and international human rights organizations have called on Vietnam to remove Articles 79, 87, 88 and 258 of the Penal Code which have been used by the communist government to silence local activists, urging Vietnam to respect its international human rights commitments.

It is worth to note that Vietnam is a signatory state of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The rights of peaceful expression, assembly and association are enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution.

Vietnam is imprisoning around 100 activists, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International while Hanoi always denies of holding any prisoners of conscience but only law violators.