Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly November 20-26, 2017: 16 Vietnamese NGOs Slam Harassment against Three Activists
Defend the Defenders | November 26, 2017
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As many as 16 independent civil organizations, including Defend the Defenders, and dozens of intellectuals in the country and abroad have issued a joint statement condemning the harassment of the police forces in Hanoi against three activists Dr. Nguyen Quang A, former prisoner of conscience Bui Thi Minh Hang and blogger Pham Doan Trang on November 16.
The statement was publicized several days after Hanoi police kidnapped the activists right after they met with high-ranking officials from the EU and interrogated them for hours. It said the acts of the Hanoi police violated human rights enshrined in the country’s Constitution as well as international treaties in which Vietnam is a signatory party.
Security forces in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi continue to harass former prisoner of conscience Bui Thi Minh Hang while she met with foreign diplomats.
On November 21, Ms. Hang and several other activists held a meeting with foreign diplomats in a cafeteria of Fortuna Hotel in the capital city to discuss human rights and social situations in the country. After the meeting, the activists were threatened by plainclothes agents and they returned home safely after getting supports from the diplomats.
The incident was among series of police harassments against Ms. Hang in recent days. She was kidnapped two times and later questioned by police officers. She was also chased by plainclothes agents.
Hanoi’s police completed their investigation against pro-democracy activists Vu Quang Thuan and Nguyen Van Dien, who were arrested in early March and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. Both will be prosecuted on Clause 1 of the article, and face imprisonment of between three and twelve years, if convicted.
Vietnam is likely to extend investigation period for the key members of the Brotherhood for Democracy to four more months. Since July 30, Vietnam has arrested seven members of the organization and charged them with subversion under Article 79 of the Penal Code.
On November 22, formers prisoners of consciences lawyer Le Cong Dinh and Bui Thi Minh Hang and activists Nguyen Anh Tuan from Green Trees, Nguyen Chi Tuyen from No-U and dissident singer Mai Khoi were invited to the Swedish Embassy in Hanoi to discuss human rights issues with visiting Foreign Minister Margot Wallström who visited the Southeast Asian nation in a bid to seek to enhance bilateral cooperation.
On November 26, the Bar Federation in the central province of Phu Yen revoked lawyer license of human rights attorney Vo An Don as a revenge for his brave activities to protect activists and the poor. The move was made few days ahead of the appeal hearing of prominent human rights defenders Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh. Mr. Don is among five lawyers hired by her family to defend for her in the hearing.
===== November 20 =====
16 Vietnamese NGOs Condemn Hanoi Police Harassment against Three Activists
Defend the Defenders: 16 Vietnamese non-government organizations, including Defend the Defenders, and tens of Vietnamese intellectuals in the country and abroad have jointly issued a statement condemning the arbitrary detentions and interrogation of three activists Dr. Nguyen Quang A, former prisoner of conscience Bui Thi Minh Hang and blogger Pham Doan Trang on November 16 after their meeting with a delegation.
The joint statement was made and publicized several days after three out of four activists were detained and questioned by security forces in the capital city, rights after they held talks with the EU delegation in Hanoi. The meeting was held in preparation for the upcoming annual EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue.
During their detention, the activists were held incommunicado for hours, and legal assistance was not allowed, the statement noted, adding police also illegally confiscated a cell phone of Ms. Trang and released her at midnight.
The acts of the Hanoi police is in direct violation of Vietnamese laws and other international treaties on human rights which Vietnam is a signatory of and has ratified, the statement said.
The government’s treatment of the activists, through the illegal detention and unlawful taking of their personal property, is a direct attack on independent civil society and its development in Vietnam. At the same time, these conducts show the government’s willingness to disregard the rule of law and their own laws in their attempt to suppress independent voices, it said.
The statement said the signatories regard these types of conduct as a direct and extremely dangerous threat to the development of not just civil society organizations, but of Vietnamese society at large.
The signatories call on our citizens, communities, civil society organizations, international organizations, and governments to join them in condemning these conducts. They also asked the EU to bring this matter as well as other grave matters in the past to the Vietnamese government.
Finally, they demand the Vietnamese authorities to immediately cease their attacks on and harassment of civil society activists, open right away an investigation into the incident as mentioned above, and announce the findings to the public as soon as possible.
Prodemocracy Activists Vu Quang Thuan, Nguyen Van Dien to Be Prosecuted for Conducting Anti-state Propaganda
Defend the Defenders: Police in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi completed the investigation against two pro-democracy activists Vu Quang Thuan and Nguyen Van Dien, advising the city’s People’s Procuracy to prosecute the duo on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda,” said lawyer Ha Huy Son, who is hired to defend the two activists.
According to a letter sent to lawyer Son, Mr. Thuan and Mr. Dien will be prosecuted under Clause 1 of Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.
If convicted, the two prodemocracy campaigners will face imprisonment of between three and twelve years, lawyer Son said.
Hanoi police detained the two activists on March 2 and later charged them with allegation of spreading “harmful video clips” on Facebook.
The police investigation agency was said to conduct a search in their rent apartment.
In several months before being arrested, the duo produced and posted on their Facebook pages tens of video clips in which Mr. Thuan as a speaker criticized the Communist leaders and their government for human rights violations, corruption, and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).
Late President Ho Chi Minh and incumbent General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong are among figures criticized by Mr. Thuan. Their clips were viewed by millions of Vietnamese Internet users.
This was the second arrest of Thuan within seven years. In 2011, he held a protest before the Vietnamese Embassy on Kuala Lumpur to demand the Vietnamese communist government to release all prisoners of conscience, and improve freedom, democracy and human rights situation in home country. He had planned for a self-immolation at the Twin Towers in Malaysia but the plan did not succeed. He was then extradited to Vietnam and was arrested but released two years later without being tried as the government considered him as suffering from a mental condition.
The arrests and charges of Mr. Thuan and Mr. Dien are part of the ongoing government crackdown against local dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and online bloggers.
So far this year, Vietnam has arrested over 20 activists with serious charges under national security provision such as Article 88 and 79- subversion of the Penal Code. Vietnam still holds a number of activists who were arrested in 2015-2016, including Luu Van Vinh, Nguyen Van Duc Do, Phan Trung (or Nhat Hue), Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thu Ha and Ho Van Hai. The first five were charged with subversion while the latest was alleged with anti-state propaganda.
Vietnam also sentenced three activists Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, Tran Thi Nga and Nguyen Van Oai to ten, nine and five years in prison, respectively, and additional five years under house arrest for Ms. Nga and four years for Mr. Oai.
Hanoi also expelled pro-democracy activist Pham Minh Hoang to France.
According to the US-based BPSOS and other human rights organizations, Vietnam is holding 165 prisoners of conscience.
Hanoi always denies holding any prisoners of conscience but only law violators.
===== November 21 =====
Vietnam Activists Harassed after Meeting with Foreign Diplomats, Second Harassment within Week
Defend the Defenders: On November 21, police in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi harassed a group of activists after a meeting with foreign diplomats from several countries.
The group consists of Vice President of the Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) Nguyen Tuong Thuy, former prisoners of conscience Bui Thi Minh Hang and Nguyen Vu Binh, Mrs. Trang- the wife of Pham Van Troi who was arrested on July 30 and charged with subversion, land rights activist Trinh Ba Phuong and Phan Van Bach, member of he Chan Hung Nuoc Viet (Vietnam Revival Movement).
During the meeting in Fortuna hotel near the U.S. Embassy in the capital city, activists reported Vietnam’s human rights violations and the government’s harassments against local activists.
Activists said plainclothes were around and watched the event.
When the meeting finished and activists were going to leave the venue, they recognized a car with plainclothes agents in front of the hotel. Feeling they may be being detained by police, activists came back and asked the diplomats to escort them to safe places.
When Ms. Hang and Mr. Thuy got in a car, plainclothes agents chased them with their car. It took long time for the driver to escape from police.
This is the second harassment Ms. Hang faced within a week. On the noon of November 16, police detained Hang after a meeting with the EU Delegation, She was interrogated for hours and released her in the evening of the same day.
===== November 22 =====
Vietnamese Activists Discuss Human Rights Issues with Visiting Swedish FM
Defend the Defenders: On the occasion of her visit to Vietnam on November 21-22, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström invited a number of activists to a meeting to discuss human rights issues.
Formers prisoner of conscience Lawyer Le Cong Dinh and Bui Thi Minh Hang, blogger Nguyen Chi Tuyen from No-U Movement, Nguyen Anh Tuan from Green Trees and singer dissident Mai Khoi were at the meeting held in the Swedish Embassy in Hanoi.
During the event, activists reported the current human rights situation in Vietnam, and asked the EU and particular Sweden not to ignore human rights issues while approving the EU-Vietnam Free Trade.
The EU should have mechanism to monitor Vietnam’s commitment on human rights issues while implementing the pact.
In turn, Minister Wallström said her country prioritizes human rights and democratic values in foreign diplomacy and economic cooperation with other countries, including with Vietnam.
The meeting is part of meetings between the visiting minister and representatives of civil societies during her two-day trip to the Southeast Asian nation.
The foreign minister also met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh, and held a speech about feminist foreign policy at the Hanoi-based Foreign Trade University.
===== November 24 =====
Jailed Pro-democracy Activist Nguyen Dien Allowed to Meet with Lawyer 8 Months after Detention
Defend the Defenders: Pro-democracy activist Nguyen Dien has been permitted to meet with his lawyer for the first time more than eight months after being arrested, his lawyer Ha Huy Son announced.
The Hanoi-based lawyer said he met with Mr. Dien at the Temporary Detention No. 1 managed by the Hanoi city’s Police Department on November 24 to prepare for his defense.
The meeting between the lawyer and his client means the investigation period ended as in most of political cases, detainees are kept incommunicado until the investigation agency completes its work.
Mr. Dien, who was arrested on early March of this year together with his fellow Vu Quang Thuan, was charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.
The Hanoi police have advised the city’s People’s Procuracy to prosecute Mr. Thuan and Mr. Dien to Clause 1 of Article 88. The two activists are facing imprisonment of between three and 12 years, if convicted, lawyer Son said.
Vietnam Likely to Extend Pre-trial Detention for Key Members of Brotherhood
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security is likely to extend pre-trial detention for key members of the Brotherhood for Democracy who were arrested on July 30 and later.
In late July, Vietnam arrested Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Vab Troi, Truong Minh Duc and Nguyen Bac Truyen and charged them with “attempting to conduct activities to overthrow the people’s government” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.
Later in August, police arrested Nguyen Van Tuc, Tran Thi Xuan and Dao Quang Thuc with the same allegation. Police also added subversion allegation for human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha who were arrested on December 16, 2015 with initial charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code.
Police said their pre-trial detention will be at least four months. During the investigation period, suspects in political cases are held incommunicado, the common practice in Vietnam. Detainees will not be permitted to meet with lawyers and families before the investigation ends.
Mrs. Nguyen Thi Lanh, the wife of Mr. Ton said authorities in her native province of Thanh Hoa are striving to lead the local public that her husband will be held for further four months.
In Vietnam, the investigation period in political cases may be extended to 20 months. In some specific cases, it may be to nearly two years. During the investigation period, detainees are not allowed to meet with their lawyers and family’s members.
===== November 26 =====
Vietnam Revokes License of Human Rights Lawyer Vo An Don
Defend the Defenders: On November 26, the Bar Federation of Vietnam’s central province of Phu Yen issued a decision to revoke the lawyer license of human rights attorney Vo An Don.
The move is believed to be a response of Vietnam’s authorities to his brave activities which aim to protect imprisoned activists and the poor.
Mr. Don is the one who said the roles of lawyers in Vietnam are very weak and most of them work as bargainers between defendants and juries.
The license revoking was made four days ahead of the appeal hearing of prominent human rights activist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (known as blogger Mother Mushroom). Mr. Don is among five lawyers hired by her family to defend for her in the upcoming hearing.
Mr. Don is among few lawyers involving in many political cases and cases related to human rights violations of state officials.
He played an important role in the prosecution of the deputy police head of Tuy Hoa town in a torture case in which local police officers beat a crime suspect to death during an interrogation.
Don has also given interviews to foreign media such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Radio Free Asia (RFA) and the Voice of America Radio (VOA) in which he condemned human rights violations and criticized many government policies.
Vietnam has revoked lawyer license of a number of human rights activists including Le Cong Dinh, Le Quoc Quan, Le Thi Cong Nhan and Nguyen Van Dai. The first three were imprisoned with anti-state allegations while the latest has been jailed since late 2015 and face serious charges of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 and subversion under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.
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