Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly June 22-28: Pro-democracy Lawyer Le Quoc Quan Completes 30-month Imprisonment
Defenders’ Weekly | Jun 28, 2015
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On June 27, prominent political dissident lawyer Le Quoc Quan was released after completing his 30-month imprisonment on fabricated tax evasion charge.
One day earlier, eleven unsanctioned civil organizations voiced against torture on the occasion of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
Family of imprisoned land petitioner Trinh Ba Khiem and social activists and friends on June 25 went to Prison No. 6 in the central province of Nghe An to pick him, however, they were blocked and brutally beaten by police and thugs.
In the morning of the same day, Dr. Pham Chi Dung, president of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, was forcibly taken to Ho Chi Minh City’s police investigation agency for questioning about the case of writer Nguyen Quang Lap. He was released in late afternoon on the same day.
and other news.
EU Releases Annual World Report on Human Rights and Democracy in 2014- Vietnam
OUTCOME OF PROCEEDINGS
Respect for and promotion of democratic principles and human and fundamental rights at work constitute an essential element of the EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) signed in June 2012. The EU’s main concerns include civil and political rights, specifically the freedoms of expression, of the media and of religion or belief, as well as the application of the death penalty. In the framework of the advanced implementation of the PCA, the EU and Vietnam in October held the preparatory meeting for the fourth round of the enhanced human rights dialogue due to take place in January 2015 in Brussels.
Human rights were mainstreamed throughout the year during high-level bilateral visits. In particular, human rights were raised at the highest level when President Barroso visited Vietnam and during Prime Minister Dung’s visit to Brussels, where he met Presidents Van Rompuy, Barroso and Schulz. The ninth EU-Vietnam Joint Commission and the third round of high-level political consultations, both held in March, also provided the opportunity to address human rights concerns. Through the preparatory contacts for the human rights dialogue, public statements and discreet diplomacy, the EU urged the government to remove restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, requested prison visits and trial observation and called for the liberation, on humanitarian grounds, of several imprisoned activists who were in poor health. The EU has made public statements regarding trials against human rights activists, the application of the death penalty and the release of several persons of concern.
Furthermore, in its regular political dialogue, the EU repeatedly expressed its concerns about the arrest and sentencing of a number of activists and bloggers and reiterated its calls for the release of all imprisoned peaceful advocates of human rights in the country. The EU’s list of persons of concern was regularly updated and shared with the authorities. The release in April of the activist Mr Trung, who was on this list and had been visited in prison by the EU Head of Delegation in July 2013, was a tangible result of the EU’s efforts. Unfortunately, in 2014, requests to visit persons of concern in prison were not accepted by the authorities. The EU also met with the Ministry of Public Security to express its concern about the harassment and violence directed against human rights activists attempting to attend human rights events organised by the international community.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution on 17 April on the negotiations for the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, which includes several references to human rights, including core labour rights.
The EU regularly met with human rights defenders and civil society organisations, and carried out field visits and trial observations on two occasions. It also monitored developments in relation to freedom of religion or belief, which remained a concern (notably persecution of non-recognised religious groups and destruction of their property) although gradual improvement was noted on the registration of churches. EU representatives met with religious leaders from different denominations on several occasions.
In 2014, Vietnam underwent its second Universal Periodic Review in Geneva. While acknowledging positive steps taken by the government of Vietnam since the first UPR cycle, many delegations (including EU Member States) highlighted the need for improvements regarding e.g. freedom of expression and the media, space for civil society, the death penalty, etc. Vietnam participated constructively in the exercise, accepted 182 of the 227 recommendations received, and by year end was working on an action plan for their implementation. The EU played an active role in the UPR process and its follow-up and offered support to Vietnam in implementing the recommendations it had accepted.
Vietnam is still to make its mark in the promotion of human rights domestically and at international level as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council since November 2013 (for the 2014-2016 term).
The EU continued to support the modernisation of the judicial system, inter alia as regards access to justice, with a contribution of EUR 8 million to the Justice Partnership Programme, a joint donor initiative involving the EU, Denmark and Sweden. The project supports key institutions such as the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuracy and the Bar Association, and includes training for judges, lawyers and other law professionals. Governance and rule of law is also a focal sector of the EU’s Multiannual Indicative Programme 2014-2020 adopted in August.
The EIDHR supported seven projects covering a broad range of issues, including empowering people with HIV and populations at higher risk of HIV infection, the rights of persons with disabilities, support for civil society organisation networks, the rights of persons belonging to ethnic minorities, workers’ rights and labour relations. In the framework of the Strategic Dialogue Facility, the EU also supported activities in the areas of anti-corruption, rights of persons belonging to ethnic minorities, freedom of religion or belief, governance and migration. In July the EU Delegation and EU Member States’ Embassies adopted the EU Roadmap for Engagement with Civil Society Organizations.
Independent Journalist Pham Chi Dung Detained in Saigon
On June 25, Dr. Pham Chi Dung, president of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam was detained by Ho Chi Minh City police.
Mr. Dung, member of the HCMC Writers Association, was a member of the ruling communist party. He left the party on Dec 5, 2013, saying the communist party has no longer served for the majority of Vietnamese people.
Mr. Dung’s passport was confiscated when he was on his way to attend an international workshop on democracy and human rights and a meeting in the framework of UN Universal Periodic Review in Geneva.
Police in Central Vietnam Brutally Beat Activists, Relatives Coming to Pick up Released Prisoner of Conscience
Police and militia in Vietnam’s central province of Nghe An on June 25 brutally attacked a group of relatives and activists coming to a local prison to welcome Mr. Trinh Ba Khiem, a prisoner of conscience released one month before his term ends.
Mr. Khiem, a farmer in Duong Noi village in Hanoi who land was seized by local authorities for a urban area development. In early 2014, he was arrested and sentenced to 18 months in prison for conducting public disorders when he and other villagers peacefully protested their land grabbing without paying reasonable compensation.
After the unfair trial, Mr. Khiem was transferred to Prison No. 6 managed by the Ministry of Public Security in Thanh Chuong district. Few months ago, Khiem’s health worsened due to hard conditions in prison and inhumane treatment of the prison’s authorities against prisoners of concern.
The prison’s authorities agreed to release Khiem today, one month before his term end due to his bad health.
In early morning of Thursday, when relatives and activists came near the prison’s gate, the prison’s authorities sent policemen and called on local militia to block the group and later attack them.
Two sons of Mr. Khiem, Trinh Ba Phuong and Trinh Ba Tu and several activists, including female blogger Mai Thanh, were severely assaulted, with numerous injuries in their faces and bodies. Policemen also confiscated their cell phones and broke a number of cameras.
Finally, the prison’s authorities released Mr. Khiem, as they promised.
Mr. Khiem’s wife Can Thi Theu is currently imprisoned in a prison in the neighbor province of Thanh Hoa. She was sentenced to 15 months in jail.
Khiem and Theu are among seven farmers in Duong Noi have been jailed between six and 22 months for objecting illegal seizure of their land by Hanoi’s authorities.
Land grabbing is a thorny issue in the communist Vietnam when all land belongs to the state and residents have only right to use. The state and local authorities can take their land for socio-economic projects or just for development of urban areas and industrial zones.
When farmers object the land seizure and demand for adequate compensation on market prices, they will be accused of conducting public disorders and objecting on-duty state officials and face harassments and imprisonment.
Police Demand Dr. Pham Chi Dung to Stop Activities of Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam
Police in HCM City has requested Dr. Pham Chi Dung, president of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, to halt activities of the unsanctioned body.
The request was made during detention of Dr. Dung in Saigon on June 25. However, he rejected their demand.
After eight hours of interrogation, Dr. Dung was released.
Dr. Dung said Vietnam’s human rights situation has worsened ahead of the upcoming visit of communist leader Nguyen Phu Trong to the U.S.
It could not exclude that Mr. Trong will meet strong protest from the global community due to Vietnam’s bad human rights records, Dung said.
Eleven Int’l Organizations Ask Vietnam to Respect Lawyer Le Quoc Quan’s Rights One Day prior to His Release
Eleven international organizations have issued a joint statement sent to President Truong Tan Sang and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to demand the communist nation to respect and protect civil and political rights of famous dissident lawyer Le Quoc Quan one day ahead of his release from prison.
Le Quoc Quyet, a younger brother of pro-democracy activist Quan, informed the news on his personnel facebook page.
Mr. Quan was arrested on Dec. 26, 2012 and charged with tax evasion. During his 30-month imprisonment, he had conducted a number of hunger strikes to protest inhumane treatment against prisoners, especially prisoners of conscience, and ask for the rights to exercise religious practice.
Unsanctioned Vietnam Civil Organizations Issue Joint Statement on UN Int’l Day in Support of Victims of Torture
On the occasion of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture [June 26], 16 Vietnamese independent civil organizations issued joint statement to condemn systemic torture in the country:
Now we hear again the voice of UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon in 2012: On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we express our solidarity with, and support for, the hundreds of thousands of victims of torture and their family members throughout the world who endure such suffering. We also note the obligation of States not only to prevent torture but to provide all torture victims with effective and prompt redress, compensation and appropriate social, psychological, medical and other forms of rehabilitation. Both the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have now strongly urged States to establish and support rehabilitation centers or facilities.
Now we hear again the call for help from hundreds of people were taken to the police station to be tortured to death because of unverified reason or a certain violation; from a thousand defendant beaten badly during investigation, being maltreated for a certain period during imprisonment. In addition, there is the outcry of thousands of prisoners’ relatives to seek justice, humanity for maltreatment.
Such outcry echoes strongly as Vietnam is the member of the Human rights Council and recently signing the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Not only strongly but also such outcry increasingly can be heard anywhere because the Communist regime is more and more brutal and totalitarian. The array of facts veirified:
Report January 2014 of the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience about the violation of human rights (including the different indexes),
Open letter in May 2015 of many civil society organizations sent to the Minister of public security
Condemning and opposing violence, report on May 21, 2015.
Today, on the occasion of the 17th anniversary (1998-2015) of the international day in support of victims of torture, we publish this joint statement as:
A sharing with the international community on the most serious and painful human rights issues in the conscience and humanity civilization.
An alarm with the whole Vietnamese fellows about the evil link of police, public security police and thugs to beat citizens rampantly even in the daytime.
A reminder to the authorities and the police forces about the obligation of States not only to prevent torture but to provide all torture victims with effective and prompt redress, compensation and appropriate social, psychological, medical and other forms of rehabilitation.
A call to choose the 26 June day as a national holiday to end violence, torture in Vietnam.
Vietnam, June 26, 2015
Civil Society Organizations signed:
Bach Dang Giang Foundation: Pham Ba Hai (MBE)
Boxit Vietnam Forum: Prof. Pham Xuan Yem, Prof. Nguyen Hue Chi
Civil Society Forum: Nguyen Quang A (Ph.D.)
Cao Dai church – Humanity Charter: Mr. Hua Phi, Mr. Nguyen Kim Lan, Mrs. Bach Phung.
Evangelical Lutheran Community Church Vietnam-America: Pastor Nguyen Hoang Hoa.
Vietnamese Political and Religious Prisoners Friendship Association: Nguyen Bac Truyen (LLB)
Brotherhood for Democracy Asociation: Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai
Religion and Ethnic Minorities Defenders: Mr. Huynh Trong Hieu
Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience: Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, Catholic Priest Phan Van Loi.
Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam: reporter Pham Chi Dung
Vietnamese Women for Human Rights: Ms.Huynh Thuc Vy, Ms.Tran Thuy Nga, Mrs. Tran Thi Hai
Bloc 8406: writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia, Eng. Do Nam Hai
Viet Labor: Mr. Truong Minh Duc
Nguyen Kim Dien Group: Father Nguyen Huu Giai.
Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, Purity: Mr. Le Quang Liem, Mr. Le Van Soc
Delegation of Vietnamese United Buddhists Church: Ven. Thich Khong Tanh.
Hanoi Police Arbitrarily Detain Activists, Blocking Meeting to Mark International Day against Torture
Hanoi’s security forces on June 26 detained three local activists-speakers and blocked a meeting which aimed to mark the UN’s International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
Bloggers Nguyen Hong Hai, Pham Thi Doan Trang and Pham Le Vuong Cac were held when they were leaving a hotel at noon to head to the meeting scheduled in the city’s center later, with a number of foreign diplomats and local activists being invited, said Mr. Cac in his facebook page.
The three activists were brought to different places for questioning until late evening. Mr. Hai said he was beaten by police offficers when he refused to cooperate with them during interrogation.
Mr. Cac, a graduated law bachelor and the main presenter of the event, said the police held his laptop and two cell phones and tried to get access to these devices despite strong protest from the owner. In order to object the police’s holding of his laptop and cell phones without a warranty from authorities, Cac broke these devices in witness of police officers.
Cac also remained silent, rejecting all questions of interrogators.
After being freed, Mr. Cac apologized the foreign diplomats and local activists who were invited to partake in the event.
On the same day, on the occasion of the 17th anniversary of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (1998-2015), 11 unsanctioned Vietnamese civil societies isssued a joint statement to share with the international community on the most serious and painful human rights issues in the conscience and humanity civilization and alert all Vietnamese about the evil link of police, public security police and thugs to beat citizens rampantly even in the daytime
They also reminded Vietnam’s government and police forces about the obligation of states not only to prevent torture but to provide all torture victims with effective and prompt redress, compensation and appropriate social, psychological, medical and other forms of rehabilitation.
They called for choosing June 26 as a national holiday to end violence, torture in Vietnam.
Vietnam adopted the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in late 2014. However, the situation has not been improved, with four local residents have been found dead and many other detainees severely beaten in police station.
According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), police torture is systemic in Vietnam, at all levels and in most of provinces and cities, including the five largest cities in the country.
Earlier this year, Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security reported 226 deaths of detainees in police stations between October 2011 and September 2014. The police said most of the deaths were caused by illness and suicides, however, many families of these victims believed that they died from police torture.
Meanwhile, Thailand’s military government on Friday forced the HRW to cancel the public launch of its report on the Vietnamese government’s persecution of an ethnic minority, saying it could affect national security and bilateral relations, according to AP.
The HRW planned to delivered the report on persecution of Montagnard Christians in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, whose religious practices have been described by the government as “evil,” at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.
The move came ahead of the visit of Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang to Bangkok to deepen the two countries’ strategic partnership formed two years ago.
The cancellation of the event is “very disappointing” and is “another affirmation that human rights organizations can no longer report, not only about situation in Thailand, but situations in neighboring countries in Southeast Asia,” Sunai Phasuk, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher in Asia, was quoted as saying by AP.
U.S.-trained lawyer Le Quoc Quan, one of the most famous political dissidents in Vietnam, on June 27 completed his two-and-half imprisonment on a fabricated tax evasion charge.
Mr. Quan, who got the Reagan-Fascell Democracy scholarship funded by the U.S.-based National Endowment for Democracy in 2007, was released from a prison in the central province of Quang Nam on Saturday, foreign media reported.
After 30 months spending in jail, Mr. Quan’s health was severely deteriorated due to the hard living conditions in the prison. He was very slim, partly due to five hunger strikes in prison with the most recent 14-day fasting on June 10-23 to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea and inhumane treatment of prison’s authorities against prisoners, especially prisoners of conscience as well as demand for unconditional release of all political prisoners.
Speaking with friends and foreign-based news agencies, the human rights lawyer said his case was poorly political and the imprisonment given to him was “a miscarriage of justice”. He has never accepted the charges against him.
Thanking international and domestic attention to his case in the past years, he said his mentality is very strong and he will resume his activities to fight for the country’s sovereignty and promote civil rights, political pluralism and religious freedom.
Mr. Quan, who is an owner of a Hanoi-headquartered consultant company, was arrested in late 2012 with accusation of tax evasion. His younger brother and one female assistant were also held. Local and foreign observers said he was targeted due to numerous articles criticizing Vietnam’s government on human rights and religious freedom violations, bad economic management and weak response to China’s aggressiveness in the East Sea.
Nine months later, on Oct 2, 2013, Mr. Quan was sentenced to 30 months in prison for tax evasion and given a $59,000 fine by an unfair trial which was closed for foreign diplomats and his relatives.
The Hanoi-based Court of Appeal on Feb 18, 2014 upheld Mr. Quan’s conviction despite the call of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for his immediate release. The UN’s body said that Mr. Quan had been targeted for his work as an activist and as a blogger.
The Vietnamese communist government has been criticized internationally for imprisoning Mr. Quan, who was held two times before, one with three months in 2007 after returning from study in the U.S., and the second time with nine days in 2011, together with democracy advocate Dr. Pham Hong Son when they tried to attend the political trial of Cu Huy Ha Vu, another political dissident in the communist nation.
Along with harassing and intimidating human rights activists and political dissidents, the Vietnamese communist government has often used fabricated offenses to criminalize them and put them behind bars.
According to international human rights bodies, Vietnam is holding between 150 and 200 prisoners of conscience. However, Hanoi always denies, saying it keeps only law violators.
Released from Prison, Lawyer Quan Declares to Continue to Fight against China’s Invasion
Prominent political dissident Le Quoc Quan, who completed his 30-month imprisonment on fabricated tax evasion charge on June 27, said he will continue his fighting against China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea.
U.S.-trained lawyer Quan said he is very concerned about China’s increasing aggressiveness in the East Sea. When he was jailed, he prayed every day for the country’s development and integrity.
His imprisonment is poorly political and “a legal miscarriage,” he reaffirmed, adding he would help others who are still serving long-term sentences due to legal miscarriage.
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