Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for November 12-18, 2018: Jailed Labor Activist Nguyen Van Duc Do Beaten by Inmates


Defend the Defenders | November 18, 2018


Labor activist and democracy campaigner Nguyen Van Duc Do told his family that he was beaten by criminal inmates with whom he shares a cell in Chi Hoa temporary detention under authority of Ho Chi Minh City’s Police Department.

The assault was carried out on October 15, ten days after the People’s Court of HCM City convicted him on charge of subversion and sentenced him to 11 years in prison and three years of probation. The facility’s authorities ignored his request for moving him to another cell so the inmates continue to beat Do until he fell unconscious.

Do was reported to be beaten by the facility’s guards several months ago after the two sides had quarrels, said imprisoned democracy activist Luu Van Vinh, who is also held in the same facility.

Freelance journalist Le Thi Thu has accused police in Dong Nai province of beating her and demolishing her cell phones after arbitrarily detained her on November 9. She was arrested by Dong Nai police and held in police station for eight hours for interviewing relatives of peaceful demonstrators on the sideline of the their appeal hearing on charge of “disrupting public order” due to their participation in the peaceful demonstration in Bien Hoa city on June 10.  

Theo appeal hearing of citizen journalist and corruption activist Do Cong Duong on allegation of “disrupting public order” will be held by the People’s Court of Bac Ninh on November 21. Mr. Duong was arrested on January 24 and charged with “disrupting public order” under Article 318 and “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code for filming a forced land grabbing in his area.

On November 13, while representing BPSOS and five Vietnamese civil organizations in Geneva on the occasion of Vietnam’s first report on implementation of UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT), Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang issued a statement condemning Vietnam’s persecution against peaceful demonstrators in mid June. Accordingly, at least 21 individuals in Ho Chi Minh City and other localities were arrested and tortured during detention and in police custody. In addition, 66 protesters were convicted between eight and 54 months in prison just because of exercising the right to peaceful demonstration.

During the preview, Vietnam’s delegation led by Deputy Minister of Public Security denied accusations of torture in the past few years made by international NGOs and local unregistered civil organizations.

Meanwhile, on November 14, the EU Parliament issued a resolution titled “Vietnam, notably the situation of political prisoners” to condemns the continuing violations of human rights, including the sentencing, political intimidation, surveillance, harassment, assaults and unfair trials in Vietnam perpetrated against political activists, journalists, bloggers, dissidents and human rights defenders for exercising their freedom of expression both online or offline, in clear violation of Vietnam’s international human rights obligations.”

===== November 12 ======

Freelance Journalist Le Thi Thu Arrested, Beaten by Dong Nai Police for Interviewing Relatives of Convicted Mid-June Protesters

Defend the Defenders: Freelance journalist Le Thi Thu has been arrested and beaten by Dong Nai province’s police for interviewing relatives of mid-June peaceful protesters on the day of their appeal, the victim has informed Defend the Defenders.

Ms. Thu, who was a former reporter of a local website Dan Tri, said when she interviewed relatives of some convicted demonstrators in a cafeteria near the People’s Court of Dong Nai on the sidelines of their appeal in Bien Hoa city on November 9, she was detained by men in plain clothes who introduced themselves as police officers from the security police unit of Dong Nai province’s Police Department.

The police officers ordered her to stay when she tried to leave the cafeteria, and grabbed her two cell phones. About 15 minutes later, around the lunch time of Friday, police from Hoa Binh Ward came and they took her to the ward’s police station.

In the station, police confiscated her belongings, Thu said, noting that inhumane treatment of police against her started. Police requested her to provide them with information of these people who were together with me in the cafeteria. They also asked her personal information, she said.

In the early evening of the same day, a police officer named Do Anh Tuan, who introduced himself as a deputy head of the Security Police Unit of the province’s Police Department, suddenly grabbed her two phones and threw them at her. Tuan then pressed against her to grab the back of her neck and jerk her back, one hand choking her neck.

Afterwards, he released his hands from her neck, tightly clenched her hair, and pounded her head on a table. As he pulled her hair up again, Tuan used his other hand to grab her jaw to raise her face, lowering his next to her’s to say, “Look at my face this way,” and pressed his forehead against her’s one. These actions happened continuously and sequentially as outlined above.

Later, Tuan said,”Your phones are so dirty, let me wash them.” He then took them to a bathroom where he submerged them in water in the sink.

Finally, at 08:00, he and another police officer constrained Thu’s hands and forced her down to the first floor of the police station and requested her to leave.

On the way home from the police station, Tuan and some other police officers followed in a car behind her. When Thu stopped at a restaurant, he threatened her and did not allow her to eat, instead forcing her to continue to drive.

This has been one of series of Ms. Thu’s assaults and detentions carried out by Vietnam’s police in recent years after she left Dan Tri and works as freelancer, she told Defend the Defenders.

Last year, when she covered a protest of traders in the Saigon-based An Dong Market, police detained her, snabbed her face and broke her Macbook, she said.

In other times, police confiscated her cell phones and left her at an remote area near the border between Vietnam and Cambodia, she said.

Meanwhile, at noon of November 9, the People’s Court of Dong Nai upheld the sentences of 15 peaceful demonstrators given by the People’s Court of Bien Hoa City in the first-instance hearing on July 30. The defendants were sentenced to between eight months and 18 months in prison for participation in the mass proteston June 10 this year which aimed to protest the communist regime’s plan to pass two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security.The first is likely to favor Chinese investors to hire land for 99 years amid increasing concerns about Beijing’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea while the second aims to silence online critics.

===== November 13 =====

Vietnam’s Persecution against Protesters during June 2018 Mass Demonstrations

Statement of Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, CEO & President of BPSOS, before the UN Committee Against Torture on behalf of Boat People SOS (BPSOS), Defend the Defenders (DTD), Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (VNWHR), The Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience (FVPOC), and Association of Bau Bi Tuong Than.

Contrary to Vietnam’s declarations in its state report, acts of torture as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment have been frequently committed by Vietnamese public officials, often with impunity. Serving as illustration is the massive and brutal police crackdown against peaceful participants in the mass demonstrations in June 2018 against the draft laws on cyber security and on special economic zones.

  1. No weight should be given to the Government of Vietnam’s codification of certain UNCAT provisions into its domestic laws because it has failed to uphold these provisions in practice.

The Government violently repressed peaceful participants in demonstrations conducted in June of this year against Vietnam’s draft laws on cybersecurity and on special economic zones. The public security police have grossly and massively violated Articles 137 and 373 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code, which prohibit the intentional infliction of bodily harm and torture.

We urge the Government of Vietnam to establish an independent monitoring body at the national level to monitor the implementation of UNCAT, receive reports from citizens and foreign nationals who were subjected to torture, ensure proper investigation of all reported violations, inform and educate the public about UNCAT, and advise the Government on improvement measures.

We also urge the Government of Vietnam to immediately conduct investigations into all reported incidents of torture and acts of violence committed by the public officials relating to the June crackdown; to duly prosecute and punish those found guilty of torture or other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and to promptly, fairly and effectively compensate all victims of such crimes.

  1. Based on statistics from Vietnam’s state report, it is the case that either the prevalence of torture has vastly increased after Vietnam’s ratification of the UNCAT, or Vietnam has significantly under-reported incidents of torture.

There were at least 21 reported incidents of torture in police custody associated with the June 2018 mass demonstrations. Yet, there has been no known investigation into any of these reported incidents. Accordingly, the Government of Vietnam may choose to not include any of these incidents in its next report on its implementation of the UNCAT.

We urge the Government of Vietnam to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to visit Vietnam for meetings with government officials, civil society organizations, human rights advocates and victims of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

  1. Contrary to claims made in Vietnam’s state report, the Vietnamese police have routinely used torture as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment to extract information from detainees or to force them to admit crimes they did not commit.

Many of those detained following the June demonstrations were coerced into providing false testimony and physically abused for refusing to sign false statements as prepared or dictated by their police interrogators. At least one American citizen was among the victims – he was subjected to torture for two days for not disclosing information about his contacts and not signing a false confession prepared by the police.

We urge the Government of Vietnam to take prompt, fair and effective actions to address all civil suits and petitions for criminal investigations filed by these victims.

  1. The Government of Vietnam has used violence and torture in combination with imprisonment to suppress the freedom of peaceful assembly, including participation in peaceful demonstrations.

At least 66 participants in peaceful demonstrations have been imprisoned on charge of “disturbing public order.” This is in blatant violation of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly as prescribed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 21, and in Vietnam’s Constitution, Article 25.

We urge the Government of Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release all individuals who have been imprisoned because they have exercised their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

===== November 14 =====

Democracy Activist Nguyen Van Duc Do Severely Beaten by Inmates After Being Convicted

Defend the Defenders: Jailed democracy campaigner and labor activist Nguyen Van Duc Do had been severely beaten by criminal inmates while being held in Chi Hoa temporary detention facility under authority of Ho Chi Minh City’s Police Department.

Mr. Do, vice president of the unregistered Viet Labor Movement, told his relatives during their visit to the facility on November 15 that he was attacked by three criminal inmates with whom he share the same cell on October 15, ten days after he was convicted on charge of subversion.

After being assaulted, Do asked the facility guards to move him to another cell, however, they denied, saying there is no threat for the activist. Right after the guards left, the three attackers continued to beat him until he fell on the ground.

Do suffered from serious injuries on his face, head and body. He was sent to to the facility’s clinics for medical treatment.

Mr. Luu Van Vinh, who was convicted in the same case, told his wife that several months ago, Do was also beaten by inmates after having quarrel with facility’s guards.

Mr. Do was arrested in early November 2016, together with Luu Van Vinh, Nguyen Quoc Hoan, Tu Cong Nghia and Phan Trung were arrested in relation with their plan to set up the Vietnam National Coalition to promote multi-party democracy and human rights. They were charged with subvesion under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code. Last month, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City found that they are guilty and sentenced them to between eight and 15 years in prison and three years of probation each.

Do had claimed that he is innocent because he has no relations with the coalition.

Do, Vinh and others were reportedly beaten upon their arrest in early November 2016 and in police custody in Chi Hoa temporary detention facility.

===== November 15 =====

EUParliament Castigates Vietnam for Systematic Violations of Human Rights and Detention of Political Prisoners

The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) welcomes the resolution adopted by the European Parliament in Strasbourg on November 15 on “Vietnam, notably the situation of political prisoners”. The resolution was tabled jointly by six major political parties from across the political spectrum.

The resolution, which comes at a time of unprecedented political repression in Vietnam “condemns the continuing violations of human rights, including the sentencing, political intimidation, surveillance, harassment, assaults and unfair trials in Vietnam perpetrated against political activists, journalists, bloggers, dissidents and human rights defenders for exercising their freedom of expression both online or offline, in clear violation of Vietnam’s international human rights obligations”. It deplores recent prison terms of 14 to 20 years handed down on human rights defenders, quoting from a database of more than 160 civil society activists currently serving prison sentences and 16 awaiting trial.

VCHR President Võ Văn Ái welcomed the Resolution, but expressed disappointment with the text: “The EP’s Resolution is falsely harsh. Whilst it rightly and strongly condemns the devastating human rights violations in Vietnam, it stops short of invoking the EU’s only leverage on Vietnam. The MEPs should have spelled out in black and white that they refuse to ratify EVFTA unless Vietnam puts an end to its brutal crackdown on dissent and makes concrete progress towards the rule of law.”

For full article: European Parliament castigates Vietnam for systematic violations of human rights and detention of political prisoners

===== November 18 =====

Appeal of Citizen Journalist Do Cong Duong on Charge of “Disrupting Public Order” Set on November 21

Defend the Defenders: The People’s Court of Bac Ninh province will hold an appeal hearing of citizen journalist and anto-corruption activist Do Cong Duong on charge of “disrupting public order” on November 21, according to his lawyer Ha Huy Son.

Speaking with Defend the Defenders, the Hanoi-based attorney said the appeal hearing will be open for public. However, it is unclear whether Duong’s relatives will be permitted to enter the courtroom, Son said, adding in his two first-instance hearings earlier this year, only his wife was allowed to observe the hearings inside the courtroom.

Mr. Duong, 54, was arrested on January 24, 2018 while filming the land grabing case in Tam Son commune, Tu Son town. Initially, he was charged with “distrupting public order” under Article 318. Later, authorities in Bac Ninh province added the second charge of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code.

On September 17, the People’s Court of Tu Son town convicted him for the first charge, sentencing him to four years in prison. On October 12, the People’s Court of Bac Ninh province found him guilty for the second charge and gave him five years in prison. He has reportedly appealed the two sentences. 

It is a small chance of Duong to get lighter sentences since he affirms his innocence while authorities in Bac Ninh province are willing to give him lengthy imprisonment as reprisal for his efforts to fight illegal land grabbing and corruption.

Mr. Duong, who is a land petitioner, became an activist on land issue. Together with other local residents, he filled letters to the state’s leaders to accuse Tu Son town’s government of illegal land seizure.

Duong is also a citizen journalist, producing hundreds of video clips which he has posted on his Facebook accountto report local officials’ corruption and cronyism, including provincial communist leader Nguyen Nhan Chien, who has big houses and has promoted numerous relatives to key positions in provincial agencies. The state-run media has also covered news affirming the information unveiled by Mr. Duong.

Due to his anti-corruption activities, Duong and his family have been persecuted by local authorities. He was summoned by the police for interrogation many timesbefore being arrested. Police also came to his private residence to threaten him.

His house has been attacked with a stinking concoction of feces, shrimp paste, and petrol, and his children have been discriminated in schools.

LawyerSon, who defends Duong in both cases and requests his immediate and unconditional release, said authorities in Bac Ninh provinceand Tu Son townare seeking to silence the anti-corruption activist and citizen journalist without respecting the country’s law and the presumption of innocence.

Two days after the trial against him for the first charge, the Committee to Protect Journalist issued a statementto condemn the Vietnamese government’s move, saying he should be released and all pending charges against the journalist should be dropped.

“If Vietnam wants to be taken seriously as a responsible international actor, it must stop jailing journalists,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative.

Land grabbing is a thorny problem in Vietnam where all land belongs to the state and local residents only have lease rights. The central government and local governments are authorized to seize any land from citizens for socio-economic development without paying adequate compensation.

In many localities, authorities have grabbed local residents’ land at very low compensation prices and sold it to property and industrial developers at prices much higher.

Thousands of farmers losing their land in that way are gathering in big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to demand justice. The land petitioners are treated like second-class residents by the government. They are living in streets and house with cheap renting fees, being subjects of torture and detention by security forces.

Vietnam is among most corrupt nations in the world. According to Trading Economics, the nation scored 35 points out of 100 on the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. Corruption Index in Vietnam averaged 27.80 points from 1997 until 2017, reaching an all-time high of 35 points in 2017 and a record low of 24 points in 2002.

In Vietnam where communists have ruled for decades, the government strictly controls media. Dozens of bloggers and independent journalists have been harassed and jailed.

Vietnam’s press freedom index is ranked at the 175th out of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ 2018Report, unchanged from previous years.