Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for November 2-8, 2020: EU Raises Concerns about Pham Doan Trang’s Arrest with Ministry of Public Security
Defend the Defenders | November 8, 2020
During a meeting with a high-ranking representative of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security on November 5, the Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation in Vietnam, Ambassador Giorgio Aliberti and other foreign diplomats raised their concerns about the recent arrest of prominent human rights defender and well-known political blogger Pham Doan Trang, saying she was arrested and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” just because she exercized her right to freedom of expression.
In turn, Lieutenant General Nguyen Thanh Son, head of Vietnam’s Foreign Liaison Department said the perception of the EU and other foreign countries regarding Ms. Trang was incorrect because her arrest had been in line withVietnam’s law, approved by the Supreme People’s Procuracy.
Well-known political dissident Tran Duc Thach was permitted to meet his lawyer Ha Huy Son on November 5, the first meeting since his arrest on April 23, to prepare for his defense. However, attorney Son was not allowed to make a copy of the indictment of the case in which Mr. Thach was charged with subversion for his membership in the unregistered group Brotherhood for Democracy. The investigation has ended and Mr. Thach is expected to be tried soon.
A dozen of other activists, including four human rights defenders in Duong Noi and three members of the unsanctioned professional group Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam have been held incommunicado for more than four months in the pre-trial detention on the allegations of anti-state crimes under the National Security provisions of the Criminal Code.
During a working session of Vietnam’s highest legislative body, the National Assembly, on November 6, Minister of Information and Communication Nguyen Manh Hung said his ministry is building a Code of Conduct for Social Networks this year. Expected to be operated in 2020, the code requests users to report their ID and take responsibilityfor their posts. Many activists said the code would be used for silencing local dissent along with the Criminal Code, the Cyber Security, the Press Law and other legal provisions.
U.S. citizen Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen, who was freed in late October after being imprisoned for more than two years in Vietnam, said he was mistreated by Ho Chi Minh City’s security forces which kidnapped him in early July 2018 when he went to visit his relatives in Vietnam. He was convicted of subversion and sentenced to 12 years inprison by a trial which failed to meet international standards for a fair trial. Vietnam’s communist regime said his release was made based on humanity reason while his two friends Huynh Duc Thanh Binh and Tran Long Phi are still in police custody. The two were sentenced to ten years and eight years in prison, respectively.
On November 5, The Project 88 released its Report on Torture and Inhumane Treatment of Political Prisoners in Vietnam in 2018-2019 which focuses on incidents of torture and other inhumane treatment of prisoners detained under national security provisions, i.e. political prisoners, by the Vietnamese government. In addition to documented cases of torture, it highlights examples of cases in which the denial of legal safeguards facilitates the use of torture.
===== October 28 =====
Freed US Citizen Says He Was Mistreated by Vietnam’s Police
U.S. citizen Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen, who was released early from a 12-year prison sentence in Vietnam last week, said he was not aware he was being released until he was taken to the airport in Ho Chi Minh City more than two years after he was “essentially kidnapped” by unidentified men.
During a video press conference held in California on October 28, Mr. Nguyen said Vietnamese authorities did not clearly communicate the “attempting to overthrow the people’s government and state” charges against him before hastily convicting him in a sham trial.
He was allowed very limited contact at observed meetings with U.S. consular officers, through which he was able to receive and deliver letters to his family.
Nguyen had gone missing on July 6, 2018 while visiting friends and relatives in Vietnam, with his whereabouts unknown for more than three weeks.
Jailed in Vietnam on charges of “attempting to overthrow the people’s government and state” under Article 109 of Vietnam’s 2015 Criminal Code, Nguyen was sentenced in June 2019 to a 12-year term, but was last week suddenly released “on humanitarian grounds”, returning to his home in California on Oct. 22, two years and four months after he disappeared.
During the press conference Wednesday, Nguyen said for 11 months of pre-trial detention he did not have access to lawyers.
Nguyen added that in court he had no opportunity to defend himself. They told him he could explain his side of the story, but when he started to speak, they abruptly stopped him.
He recounted how he was arrested, saying he and three others were “essentially kidnapped” with no explanation, with arresting authorities not even identifying themselves.
“I was blindfolded, handcuffed and put into a car by people in civilian clothes. I was fearful,” he said.
During most of the first month after his arrest Nguyen was denied his right to meet with the U.S. Consulate.
Two other activists Huynh Duc Thanh Binh and Tran Long Phi were sentenced to ten years and eight years, respectively, as the government had accused the three of plotting with a previously unknown group to help incite protests that erupted across Vietnam in opposition to two controversial bills, one regarding special economic zones (SEZ) and the other concerning cybersecurity.
For further reading: Recently Released US Citizen Describes Mistreatment in Vietnamese Prison
===== November 5 =====
Prisoner of Conscience Tran Duc Thach Permitted to Meet Lawyer after Six Months
Pro-democracy activist Tran Duc Thach, who has been held in pre-trial detention on the allegation of subversion since late April, was allowed earlier this week to meet with his lawyer to prepare for his defense one month after the investigation ended.
On November 5, attorney Ha Huy Son met with Mr. Thach in Nghi Kim temporary detention which is under the authority of the Nghe An province’s Police Department. However, Son was blocked from making a photocopy of the indictment.
The police told the lawyer that because the case involves issues of state secrets and security that he wasn’t able to make a photocopy unless he got permission from the Supreme People’s Court. The attorney was able in the time allowed to him only to make a written copy of certain information.
Mr. Thach told his lawyer that he is now being charged with two offences in connection with his writings on Facebook and his activities with the Brotherhood for Democracy from 2013 to 2016. The 86-year-old activist is also in ill health in jail and suffers from gout, high blood pressure, and ulcerative colitis.
Mr. Thach, a former communist soldier, was arrested on April 23 this year on charge of “attempting to overthrow the people’s government and state” under Article 109 of Vietnam’s 2015 Criminal Code. This was his second stint in jail for his democracy advocacy.
EU and Foreign Diplomats Raise Concerns about Pham Doan Trang’s Arrest with Police
On November 5, Head of the EU Delegation in Vietnam, Ambassador Giorgio Aliberti and other foreign diplomats raised their concerns about the recent arrest of prominent human rights and well-known political blogger Pham Doan Trang during a meeting with a senior official of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security.
During the meeting, the foreign diplomats expressed their opinions that Ms. Trang was detained due to exercising her right to freedom of expression.
However, Lieutenant General Nguyen Thanh Son, head of the Foreign Liaison of the ministry said the perception of the EU and other foreign countries regarding Ms. Trang was incorrect because her arrest had been in line with Vietnam’s law.
Gen. Son also reaffirmed that the detention was legal and approved by the Supreme People’s Procuracy.
Project 88 Releases 2018-2019 Report on Torture and Inhumane Treatment of Political Prisoners in Vietnam
On November 5, the Vietnamese human rights group Project 88 released its 2018-2019 Report on Torture and Inhumane Treatment of Political Prisoners in Vietnam which focuses on incidents of torture and other inhumane treatment of prisoners detained under national security provisions, i.e. political prisoners, by the Vietnamese government. In addition to documented cases of torture, it highlights examples of cases in which the denial of legal safeguards facilitates the use of torture.
It describes cases in which political prisoners are subject to:
– Prolonged incommunicado pre-trial detention
– Denial of legal representation and unfair trials
– Denial of adequate medical treatment
– Harsh physical and administrative conditions in prison
– Denial of family visits/punitive transfers
– Infliction of physical and psychological pain
– Solitary confinement
In focusing on the absolute right of freedom from torture and ill-treatment, and with the leverage that results from Vietnam’s recent ratification of UNCAT, Project 88 aims to highlight the harsh conditions imposed upon political prisoners and push the Vietnamese government to:
– Implement concrete actions that have clearly been stated in the Committee Against Torture’s Concluding Observations in the Initial Report of Viet Nam (December 2018)
– Implement relevant UPR recommendations Vietnam accepted in 2019
– Observe the CCPR General Comments No. 20 which lays out specific recommendations for State members to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
– Accept visits by the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as well as visits by State members’ consular representatives to conduct investigations of prison conditions in multiple localities.
===== 06/11 =====
Vietnam Plans to Issue Code of Conduct for Social Network to Tighten Online Activities
During a working session of Vietnam’s highest legislative body National Assembly on November 6, Minister of Information and Communication Nguyen Manh Hung said his ministry is building a Code of Conduct for Social Networks this year.
The code will ask social media users to understand their duties and should not speak against the regime’s inrerests. The code is expected to take effect later in 2020 which requests users to report their ID.
Along with tecnical tools for scanning information, the code of conduct will make people participating in social networks to be responsible for their posts, said Minister Hung.
Many activists said the code would be used for silencing the local dissent along with the Criminal Code, the Cyber Security, the Press Law and other legal provisions.
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