Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for January 01-06, 2019: Now! Campaign Says Vietnam Hold 244 Prisoners of Conscience


Defend the Defenders | January 06, 2019

Vietnam’s communist regime is holding at least 244 prisoners of conscience, according to Now! Campaign, an initiative supported by 14 international and domestic NGOs working for release of all prisoners in the Southeast Asian nation.

Accordign to Now! Campaign’s 2018 year-end report, there are 224 activists convicted and 20 others held in pre-trial detention. Most of them are charged with controversial articles in the national security provisions in the country’s Penal Code.

On January 4, the authorities in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak issued a decision requesting local activist Huynh Thuc Vy to serve her prison sentence of two years and nine months. In a trial on November 30, 2018, the People’s Court of Buon Ho town convicted her on charge of “disrespecting national flag” under Article 276 of the 1999 Penal Code but allowed her to suspend imprisonment serving as her daughter is under three years old.

Activist Le Minh The, a member of the unregistered group Hien Phap (Constitution), has not been allowed to meet with his family nor lawyer nearly three months after being arrested on October 10, 2018.

Democracy activist Le Dinh Luong has been transferred to serve his 20-year imprisonment in Ba Sao Prison camp in the northern province of Ha Nam, about 300 km from his home province of Nghe An. The transfer was made after the human rights defender lose his appeal in November last year.

Meanwhile, on January 4, democracy campaigner and human rights defender Vu Van Hung was released after spending one year in prison. Last year, he was arrested in a trumped-up case in which he was alleged with “inflicting to cause injury” to plainclothes agents who followed him.

On the afternoon of January 4, police in Ho Chi Minh City arbitrarily detained local activist Nguyen Tri Dung and beat his mother Duong Thi Tan, who is also a human rights defender. The suppression is linked to a land grabbing in Hung Loc area where the city’s authorities evicted local residents and destroyed their houses without making compensation at market prices.

As many as 11 Vietnamese citizens died in police stations and detention facilities across the country in 2018, according to the Radio Free Asia. 

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Activist Le Minh The yet to Be Allowed to Meet with Relatives

Defend the Defenders: The Police Department of Can Tho City have yet permitted the family of local activist Le Minh The to meet with him after nearly three months of detention, Defend the Defenders has learned.

Mr. The, 54, was arrested on October 10, 2018 and charged with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code for his peaceful activities which aim to promote human rights and multi-party democracy. Currently, he is held in pre-trial detention in the city’s police temporary detention facility.

In late December 2018, his family asked the city police to allow the family to meet with him. The authorities of the detention facility pledged to the family to grant such a permit and asked the family to get a letter of verification from the communal authorities. However, on January 02, when the family came with the document, the authorities of the detention facility denied.

Mr. The is one of 18 founding members of the unregistered group Hien Phap (Constitution) which is disseminating the country’s 2013 Constitution and other international human rights treaties in a bid to educate people about their human rights as well as civil and political rights.

According to Vietnam’s Criminal Procedure Code, a person arrested with criminal charge(s) is allowed to meet with his/her family and lawyer in pre-trial detention. However, in most of political cases, the detainees are not permitted to get access to legal counceling nor their families in investigation periods which last between four and 16 months or even 28 months.

Mr. The is among ten members of the group being arrested or kidnapped by security forces in September-October last year. Four of them, Mr. Ngo Van Dung, Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh, Ms. Doan Thi Hong and Mr. Ho Dinh Cuong were charged with “disrupting security” under Article 118 while Mr. Huynh Truong Ca was arrested and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Penal Code. Mr. The is facing imprisonment of between three and seven years in prison while the lattest was convicted and sentenced to five years and six months in prison and three years under house arrest while the four remaining are facing imprisonment of up to 15 years in prison.

Three other members of the group named Do The Hoa, Tran Thanh Phuong and Hung Hung are still in detention from early September 2018 without being officially charged and their families are not informed about their arrest.

After the mass demonstrationin mid June 2018 with the participation of tens of thousands of people from different social groups to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security, Vietnam’s security forces are intensifying crackdown to prevent similar street protests. In early September, security forces reportedly arrested dozens of activists who were key figures in mid-June protests. Many of them have been held incommunicado and their families are not informed about their arrests and detentions.

According to Now! Campaign, Vietnam is holding at least 245 prisoners of conscience, 225 of them were convicted on different charges in controversial national security provisions in the Penal Code and sentenced to between eight months and life imprisonment. As many as 20 prisoners of conscience are held in pre-trial detention.

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At Least 11 Detainees Die in Police Custody in 2018: RFA

There are at least 11 detainees died in police custudy in Vietnam in 2018, according to the Radio Free Asia (RFA).

The latest victim was Mr. Nguyen Minh Sang who died on December 23 after few hours being held in the police station of Ward 2, Tan Binh district, Ho Chi Minh City.

According to police, six of the deaths were caused by suicide or sell falling. In all cases, the detainees died with severe injuries in their heads or bodies.

According to RFA, the state-controlled media has not made statistics about the deaths of detainees in police custody in many recent years. In 2015, the Ministry of Public Security reported 226 deaths of detainees in prisons and detention facilities in 2011-2014, saying the major causes for most of these cases were diseases and suicides.

However, the families of the victims suspect that torture is the main cause of their deaths.

Vietnam ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in late 2014, however, police torture is still rampant and perpetrators have not been punished strictly, according to human rights groups and activists.

According to the government’s report, the Supreme People’s Procuracy has dealed with 11 suspects in six torture cases since 2015.

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Now! Campaign: Vietnam Holds 244 Prisoners of Conscience At Least

Defend the Defenders: According to Now! Campaign, a campaign of 14 international and domestic non-government groups, Vietnam is holding at leat 244 prisoners of conscience.

In its press release for 2018 publicized on January 3 this year, the figure consists of 224 convicted prisoners of conscience and 20 activists being held in pre-trial detention. The figure does not include eight individuals convicted with suspended sentence of between five months and two years.

Among them, 33 are female, 176 from the King ethnic group, 59 from Montanargs from the Central Highlands, 17 from Hmong ethnic minority and two Khmer Krom.

Most prisoners of conscience have been charged with or convicted of allegations under Articles 109, 116,117, 318 and 331 in the 2015 Penal Code (previously Articles 79, 87, 88, 245 and 258 of the 1999 Penal Code, respectively): 

– 45 activists convicted on subversion (Article 79 of 1999 Penal Code or Article 109 in the 2015 Penal Code); 

– 23 activists convicted and five charged with anti-state propaganda (Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code or Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code); 

– 53 people from ethnic minorities convicted for undermining the national unity policy (Article 87 of the 1999 Penal Code); – 13 activists convicted of or charged with “abusing democratic freedom” (Article 258 of the 1999 Penal Code or Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code); 

– 78 individuals convicted of or charged with “disrupting public orders” (under Article 245 of the 1999 Penal Code or Article 318 of the 2015 Penal Code). Fifty two of them were imprisoned for peaceful participation in or being suspected of planning to participate in the mid-June demonstrations and their aftermath. 

– The charge(s) for 16 individuals are unknown or yet to be announced by authorities. 

In 2018, Vietnam arrested 27 activists and sentenced 41 activists with a total 302 years ad nine months in prison and 69 years of probation. Two activists Le Dinh Luong and Luu Van Vinh were given to 20 years and 15 years in prison, respectively, and five years under house arrest.

In addition, Vietnam arrested hundreds of peaceful demonstrators, sentencing 64 of them to between eight months and 54 months in prison.

For full report, you can read here: https://www.vietnampocs.com/periodic-reports

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Heavy-sentenced Activist Le Dinh Luong Sent to Ba Sao Prison Camp, Far from His Home

Defend the Defenders: Democracy campaigner and environmentalist Le Dinh Luong has been transferred to Ba Sao Prison camp located in the northern province of Ha Nam, about 300 km from his home in the central province of Nghe An, according to his family.

His family was informed about the transfer by the authorities of Nghi Kim temporary detention facility under the authorities of the Nghe An province’s Police Department on January 3 when they came to conduct regular meeting with him.

The transfer was made after Mr. Luong lose his appeal in the appeal hearing on October 18, 2018, in which the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi upheld the sentence of 20 years in prison and five years of probation given by the People’s Court of Nghe An in the trial on August 16, 2018.

Mr. Luong, 53, was arrested on July 24, 2017 and charged with subversion under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code for his advocacy for multi-party democracy as well as activities to assist Formosa-affected fishermen and anti-corruption in his locality.

His family told Defend the Defenders that by moving him to the prison far from his home, authorities make it difficult for the family to conduct regular visits given the hard living conditions in prisons, especially with poor-quality food and lack of proper medical services.

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Dak Lak Authorities Plan to Implement Jail Sentence for Activist Huynh Thuc Vy

Defend the Defenders:On January 42019, the People’s Court of Buon Ho town in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak issued a decision requesting local activist Huynh Thuc Vy to serve her sentence of two years and nine months in prison given by the court in the trialon November 30.

Accordingly, Mrs. Vy was requested to come to the court within seven days otherwise she will be arrested.

Mrs. Vy, 33, had been convicted on “disrespecting the national flag” under Article 276 of the 1999 Penal Code. The court gave her suspension as she has a daughter of around 26 months, saying she has to serve her jail sentence once the daughter becomes three years old.

Vy has not appealed the court’s decision. Recently, she publicly announced her pregrancy for the second child.

Her conviction has met strong international and domestic condemnation, including Human Rights Watch.

Vy is a co-founder of the unregistered Vietnam Women for Human Rights and co-president of the banned Vietnam Independent Civil Organization Network (VICSON).

She has a number of articles on human rights and democracy and an author of a book tittled “Nhận định Sự thật Tự do và Nhân quyền” (A view on Truth, Freedom and Human Rights).

In May 2018, the British Broad Corporation (BBC) listed Vy as one of five female activistswho are risking their lives to protect others’ rights. Other activists include Wang Yu from China, Maria Chin Abdullah from Malaysia, Anchana Heemina from Thailand and Phyoe Phyoe Aung from Myanmar.

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HCM City Police Arrest Activist Nguyen Tri Dung, Beat His Mother Activist Duong Thi Tan

Defend the Defenders: On January 4, police in Ho Chi Minh City arbitrarily detained activist Nguyen Tri Dung and brutally beat his mother Duong Thi Tan, who is also a human rights defender and democracy campaigner.

Ms. Tan said Dung was arrested on afternoon when he prepared to leave his private residence in District 1. Plainclothes agents forcebly took him in a car and dropped away.

Being informed about the illegal detention of her son, Tan went out and was attacked by other plainclothes agents. They kicked and beat her and threw her to a corner of the building in which the family lives.

The detention of Dung may be related to the land grabbing in Vuon Rau area. The city’s police were placing a number of local activists under house arrest on the same day in a bid to prevent them from gathering to support residents of Vuon Rau.

Police released Dung in late evening and requested him to stay at home in next days.

Ms. Tan is a former wife of prominent blogger Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay), who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his peaceful activities to protest China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and promote human rights, democracy and freedom of press. He was released in October 2014 but forced to live in exile in the US.

Dung is the son of their marriage.

Both Dung and his mother Tan are human rights defenders, often giving supports for other activists. 

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Democracy Activist Vu Van Hung Released after Completing 1-year Imprisonment

Defend the Defenders:On January 4, democracy activist and human rights defender Vu Van Hung was released after spending one year in prison.

He was freed from Prison camp No. 3 located in Tan Ky district, Nghe An province. A group of activists from Hanoi came to host him on the day.

Mr. Hung was arrested on January 4 last year after participating in a meeting with activists in Hanoi. Plainclothes agents followed him, attacked him and later police in uniform came to arrested him, charging him with “intentionally inflicting others” under Article 134 of the 2015 Penal Code.

In April, 2018, a court in Thanh Xuan district convicted him and sentenced him to one year in jail.

This was the second imprisonment of Mr. Hung due to his membership in the unregistered group Brotherhood for Democracy, one of the main targets of the Vietnamese ongoing crackdown on the local dissent.

Mr. Hung was arrested in 2008 and sentenced to three years in prison for distributing leaflets with a content calling for multi-party democracy in Hanoi.

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