WGAD Says Vietnam Has Systemic Problem with Arbitrary Detention



Defend the Defenders, March 7, 2021


The United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has stated that numerous cases indicate “a systemic problem with arbitrary detention in Viet Nam which, if it continues, may amount to a serious violation of international law.”

WGAD made this statement in its Advance Edited Version document titled “Opinions adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at its eighty-ninth session, 23–27 November 2020” released on February 19 this year regarding the case of arbitrary detention of Vietnamese blogger Ho Hai (Ho Van Hai), who was arrested by Vietnam’s communist regime in 2016 on the allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code (1999) for his online posts. Mr. Hai, a medical doctor, was sentenced to four years in prison followed by two years of probation in 2018 in a trial which failed to meet the international standards for a fair trial.

The WGAD said that Mr. Hai’s case is one of several cases that have been referred to the Working Group in recent years regarding arbitrary detention in Vietnam. The cases follow a similar pattern of extended detention pending trial with no access to judicial review, incommunicado detention, prosecution under vaguely worded criminal offences for the peaceful exercise of human rights, the denial of access to legal counsel, a brief closed trial at which due process is not observed, disproportionately harsh sentencing and the denial of access to the outside world.

The WGAD said it welcomes any opportunity to work constructively with Vietnam to address arbitrary detention. Thegroup’s latest visit to Vietnam was in October 1994 and it said it is now an appropriate time to conduct another visit. In June 2018, it reiterated earlier requests to Vietnam to undertake a country visit, and it will continue to seek a positive response.

In order to keep the country under a one-party regime, Vietnam’s communist government is using all measures to prevent the formation of opposition parties and independent civil organizations. It has intensified crackdown on the local political dissidents, social activists, and human rights defenders since 2015, arbitrarily arresting hundreds of them on controversial allegations in the National security provisions of the Penal Code (1999) or the Criminal Code (2015) which became effective in 2018. Especially in recent years, dozens activists have been sentenced to lengthy imprisonment of between five and 20 years. According to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics, Vietnam holds at least more than 250 prisoners of conscience in severe living conditions in prison camps and temporary detention facilities across the nation while Hanoi always denies imprisoning any activists but only law violators.

In recent years, Defend the Defenders and other NGOs have submitted more than 100 of petitions regarding arbitrary detentions in Vietnam to the WGAD, making Vietnam among countries in the world with highest numbers of arbitrary detention reports.