Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report September 04-10, 2017: Trial for Human Rights Activist Nguyen Van Oai Re-scheduled on September 18
Defend the Defenders | September 10, 2017
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The People’s Court in Hoang Mai town will hold a trial against former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Oai on September 18 after unexpectedly postponed the first hearing scheduled on August 20.
Mr. Oai will be tried on charges of “Resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 257 and “Failing to execute judgments” under Article 304 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. He will face imprisonment of three years for each accusation if is convicted, according to Vietnam’s current law.
Amnesty International has called on international community to write petitions to Vietnam’s authorities to request for immediate and unconditional release of Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Trung Ton and Truong Minh Duc who were arrested on July 30 and charged with subversion under Article 79 of the Penal Code. The three men are key members of the online group Brotherhood for Democracy.
Security forces in Ninh Binh and Dak Lak provinces summoned teacher Pham Ngoc Lan and Nguyen Dinh Danh, to interrogate about Brotherhood for Democracy and their postings on social networks, including Facebook.
Imprisoned human rights activist Tran Thi Nga has yet to be allowed to meet with her family, including her two kids 7-year-old Phan Van Phu and 5-year-old Phan Van Tai since being arrested on January 21 this year. Authorities in Ha Nam said in order to meet with her, the family needs approval from the Supreme People’s Court.
===== September 06 =====
Female Activist Summoned, Interrogated about Brotherhood for Democracy
Defend the Defenders: On September 06, security forces in Vietnam’s northern province of Ninh Binh summoned a local female teacher namely Pham Ngoc Lan to a local police station where police officers interrogated her about her online activities and membership of the Brotherhood for Democracy.
Ms. Lan said in the early morning of the first teaching day of the 2017-2018 school year, the principal handed over to her a summon letter issued by the province police’s Investigation Agency requesting her to be at its office at 8 AM to work on her activities which are “harmful for national security.”
When she was in her class, police officers came and requested her to go with them. They also asked the principal to get someone to replace her in teaching for several days.
Ms. Lan said in the agency’s office, police officers questioned about her posting on social networks and her participation in Brotherhood for Democracy which is targeted by the security forces recently with the arrests of seven key members in recent months.
Police said she has to work with them for many days.
Ms. Lan is among thousands of Vietnamese netizens using Facebook and other social networks to express their opinions on the country’s issues, including systemic corruptions, human rights violations, China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and environmental pollution. She has joined Brotherhood for Democracy, an online group fighting for human rights enhancement and multi-party democracy.
Due to her online activities, she has been unfairly treated by the educational authorities in her native Yen Mo district. Despite being a good teacher, she cannot get promotion and salary increase as well as other privileges she deserves for her good job.
Last month, she obtained a master degree on chemistry from Vinh University.
Considering Brotherhood for Democracy as a potential political opponent, the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its government has launched crackdown on the organization, arresting its seven key members, including co-founders Nguyen Van Dai and Pham Van Troi, and charged them with subversion under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.
On the same day, police in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak also summoned a local teacher named Nguyen Dinh Danh and interrogated him about Brotherhood for Democracy.
More arrests and detentions of the organization’s members and other activists are expected as Vietnam is preparing for APEC Summit slated in Danang in November with participation of many global leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump.
==== September 08 =====
Amnesty International Calls on International Community to Pay Attention to Newly-arrested Activists
Defend the Defenders: On September 8, Amnesty International issued a statement calling on international community to write petitions to Vietnam’s leaders to request for immediate and unconditional release of Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi and Truong Minh Duc, three activists members of Brotherhood for Democracy arrested on July 30 and charged with subversion under Article 79 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code.
While all three men suffer from pre-existing health conditions that require access to medication and medical care, they will be held incommunicado during the investigation period which will last between four and 20 months, a common practice in political cases in Vietnam.
Although their wives have attempted to pass on medicine via prison authorities, they are unsure whether it has been delivered, since they have not been able to visit their husbands, the London-based human rights organization said.
Incommunicado detention can facilitate torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and when prolonged can itself amount to such practices under international human rights law and standards, Amnesty International noted, adding the right to promptly communicate with a lawyer and prepare a defense is an essential part of the right to a fair trial.
Amnesty International urges people worldwide to write immediately in Vietnamese, English, or other languages urging Vietnamese authorities to (i) Release the three activists immediately and unconditionally as they have been deprived of their liberty solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association; (ii) Pending their release, ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and are allowed access to their family, a lawyer of their choice, and adequate medical care; and (iii) Ensure an immediate end to the arbitrary arrests and harassment of members of the Brotherhood for Democracy and other activists who peacefully express their views.
The letters should be sent to Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh and Minister of Public Security To Lam as well as Vietnam’s diplomatic missions worldwide before October 20, Amnesty International said.
Vietnam is in the midst of a sustained crackdown on human rights which has resulted in the arrest and arbitrary detention of at least fifteen peaceful activists and government critics since January 2017.
Prison conditions in Vietnam are harsh, with inadequate food and health care, falling far short of the minimum requirements set out in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules) and other international standards.
===== September 09 =====
Trial against Former Prisoner of Conscience Nguyen Van Oai Re-scheduled on September 18: Lawyer
Defend the Defenders: The People’s Court in the Hoang Mai town, Vietnam’s central province of Nghe An will try former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Oai on September 18, his lawyer Ha Huy Son has announced.
The trial will be held at a courtroom within the building of the Nghe An province’s People’s Court located in Vinh city, the lawyer posted on his Facebook page.
The same court planned to try Oai on August 20 but postponed the hearing unexpectedly one day prior to the scheduled day. It said the delay was made due to the absence of one of witnesses.
Oai, who was imprisoned for four years between 2011 and 2015, was arrested on January 19 this year and charged with “Resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 257 and “Failing to execute judgments” under Article 304 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.
He will face imprisonment of up to three years in jail for every charge if is convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law. He may receive heavy sentence as Hanoi is intensifying its crackdown against local political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and independent bloggers.
The Catholic social activist was arrested on his way home from a fishing trip in Hoang Mai town. Local authorities accused him of failing to obey by regulations set for house arrest as he is still under three-year probation period given by the previous sentence.
In August 2011, Oai was arrested for the first time together with 13 other young Catholic activists and they were charged with “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the Penal Code. Later, they were sentenced to between four and 13 years in prison.
After his arrest in January this year, the EU, the U.S. and other countries and international human rights have condemned Vietnam’s move, urging the communist government to release him immediately and unconditionally.
In late June, Vietnam sentenced prominent human rights advocate Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh to ten years in prison. The communist government will try social activist Tran Thi Nga on July 25 and it is likely to receive heavy sentence too as the two were charged with the same allegation “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code.
In July-September, Vietnam arrested Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Trung Ton, Truong Minh Duc and Nguyen Bac Truyen, Nguyen Trung Truc, Nguyen Van Tuc, Le Dinh Luong and charged them with subversion under Article 79 of the Penal Code. They are facing life imprisonment and even death sentences if are convicted. Vietnam also added the same charge to prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his assistance Le Thu Ha who were arrested on December 16, 2015 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code.
Vietnam is imprisoning over 100 activists, according to Human Rights Watch while Amnesty International says the Southeast Asian nation is holding around 90 prisoners of conscience. Hanoi always denies holding any political prisoners, saying it keeps in prison only law violators.
Imprisoned Human Rights Defender Tran Thi Nga Yet to Meet with Husband, Two Kids
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities have yet to allow imprisoned human rights defender Tran Thi Nga to meet with her husband and two kids more than one month after the trial on July 25.
Mr. Phan Van Phong, the father of their kids seven-year-old Phan Van Tai and five-year-old Phan Van Phu, said when he asked to meet with Nga, authorities in Ba Sao Prison in the northern province of Ha Nam said they need approval from the Supreme People’s Court.
On July 25, the People’s Court in Ha Nam sentenced Nga to nine years in prison and additional five years under house arrest on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.
The conviction was based mainly on numerous video clips in which she condemned human rights violations conducted by Vietnam’s authorities and criticized state officials for systemic corruption, land grabbing, economic mismanagement and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).
Nga was said to have filled a petition to appeal the court’s decision.
She was arrested on January 21 and was kept incommunicado until recently when she was permitted to meet with her lawyers to prepare for her defense. She has not been allowed to meet with her kids since being detained while her partner can only send some supplements for her monthly.
Ms. Nga was a migrant worker in Taiwan. While working there, she assisted Vietnamese workers to demand Vietnamese brokers to take responsibility to ensure the rights of migrant workers.
Upon her return to Vietnam, about ten years ago, she assisted land petitioners who lost their land due to illegal seizure from local authorities.
She also participated in many anti-China demonstrations in Hanoi from 2011 to 2016 to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), as well as in peaceful gatherings to demand multi-party democracy.
Due to her activities, Vietnam’s communist government, particularly authorities in Ha Nam province constantly harassed and persecuted her and her two children. She was detained many times and was placed under de facto house arrest for most of the last two years.
In May 2014, she was attacked by plainclothes agents in Hanoi who broke her right leg and caused a number of severe injuries to her body.
Police in Ha Nam also targeted her kids, throwing dirty sauce containing decaying shrimp at them. Her private residence in Phu Ly city was attacked with paint and dirty substances many times.
Ms. Nga is among six distinguished women human rights activists in Southeast Asia the London-based NGO Amnesty International recognized their works on the occasion of International Women’s Day (March 8) this year. Nga, Sirikan Charoensiri from Thailand, Maria Chin Abdullah from Malaysia, Tep Vanny from Cambodia, Leila de Lima from Philippines and Wai Wai Nuwho from Myanmar have faced harassment, threats, imprisonment, and violence for standing up for human rights in the region.
Since her arrest and prior to her trial, many foreign governments and a number of international human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders called on Vietnam’s communist government to immediately and unconditionally release her and other activists who have been imprisoned just because of exercising the right of freedom of expression which is enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution.
The arrest and conviction of Nga are part of Vietnam’s intensified crackdown against local dissidents, human rights advocates, social activists and bloggers. She is the second rights campaigner having sentenced to lengthy imprisonment. In late June, Vietnam also sentenced prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh to ten years on charges of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code.
Since the beginning of 2016 when the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam elected the country’s new leadership, Vietnam has arrested and sentenced dozens of activists, including Luu Van Vinh, Hoang Duc Binh, Ho Van Hai, Can Thi Theu, Nguyen Van Oai, Nguyen Van Hoa. Vietnam detained prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha in late 2015 and still hold them for investigation on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda.”
On July 24, Vietnam arrested activist Le Dinh Luong and will prosecute him for “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the Penal Code.
On July 30, Vietnam detained Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Bac Truyen. It arrested Nguyen Trung Truc five days later and Nguyen Van Tuc on September 01. The communist government charged them with subversion under Article 79 of the Penal Code, together with prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha. Mr. Truyen is a co-founder of online group Brotherhood for Democracy but left the organization several years ago while the others are members of the organization which fights for human rights improvement and multi-party democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.
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