Two Prisoners of Conscience Ngo Van Dung, Le Quy Loc Beaten While Waiting for Trial

Defend the Defenders, May 9, 2020


Two prisoners of conscience Ngo Van Dung and Le Quy Loc have reportedly been beaten by police in Phan Dang Luu temporary detention facility under the authority of Ho Chi Minh City Police Department while waiting for their first-instance hearing.

The incident occurred on April 12, according to relatives of other prisoners of conscience who are held in the same facility. The information was passed after the regular visits on Friday which were resumed after months of suspension due to applied measures during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Accordingly, many prisoners of conscience held in the facility said that they saw dozens of policemen brutally assaulted the two men who were arrested in early September 2018 on allegation of “disruption of security” under Article 118 of the country’s Criminal Code for their plan to hold peaceful demonstrations.

In response, the prisoners of conscience and their cellmates protested the attacks by using their personal items and hands to knock their cell doors.

After that, the police took the two men out of the facility. One week later, they returned Loc to his cell and he told them that he suffered serious injuries and was hospitalized for treatment.

Meanwhile, Mr. Dung was transferred to Chi Hoa, another temporary detention facility also under the authority of HCM City Police Department. His relatives have yet to be permitted to visit him since late January.

Mr. Dung, 51, and Mr. Loc, 44, are members of the unregistered group Hiến Pháp (Constitution) which strives to educate the public about the human rights they are entitled to under Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution by disseminating the country’s 2013 Constitution among citizens. Its members were active during the mass demonstration in HCM City on June 10, 2018 in which tens of thousands of Vietnamese rallied on streets to protest the communist regime’s plan to approve two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cybersecurity

They were arrested in early September 2018 together with 6 members of the group named Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh, Mrs. Hoang Thi Thu Vang, Mr. Do The Hoa, Mr. Ho Dinh Cuong, Mr. Tran Thanh Phuong, and Ms. Doan Thi Hong. While Hanh and Vang were charged with the allegation of “disruption of security” under Clause 1 of Article 118 of the Criminal Code with imprisonment of between five and 15 years in prison, the other six are subjected to the allegation under Clause 2 of the same article with imprisonment of between two and seven years if are convicted.

All of them were kidnapped by HCM City’s police on September 2-4, 2018, and held incommunicado for months. Their families had not been informed about their detentions and charges for months after they went to different state agencies and police stations to ask for their status and found out that they were kept by the city’s police.

In order to prevent similar protests in early September 2018, Vietnam’s security forces launched a big campaign to persecute local dissent and all members of the Hiến Pháp group became their targets. Two other members of the group named Huynh Truong Ca and Le Minh The were arrested and convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” and “abusing democratic freedom,” respectively while three others were forced to relocate in Thailand to avoid being arrested.

The People’s Court of HCM City set up the first-instance hearing on their cases in late 2019 and early 2020 but postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak and other unclear reasons.

It is expected that the activists would be convicted and sentenced to lengthy sentences after Vietnam’s communist regime got all it wants, including the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). On February 12, the European Parliament approved the pact, ignoring the call for postponing the agreement by numerous international and Vietnamese human rights groups. Although the EU says the pact may be postponed or terminated if Vietnam’s human rights record gets worsened, it is unlikely Hien Phap activists will be freed or receive light sentences.

Vietnam continues to be among the world’s biggest prisons for activists, holding at least 247 prisoners of conscience, including ten members of Hiến Pháp group, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics.

Meanwhile, torture and inhumane treatment is still systemic in Vietnam although the country ratified the UN Convention on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2014. Every year, dozens of suspects and inmates die in police custody and the authorities say their deaths were caused by illness, suicide or attacks of other inmates while their families and activists suspect that the real cause is police torture.