Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for May 4-10, 2020: Prisoners of Conscience Ngo Van Dung and Le Quy Loc Brutally Beaten While Waiting for Trial


Defend the Defenders | May 10, 2020


Along with arresting more activists and harassing other dissidents, Vietnam’s communist regime continues to persecute those who are held in police custody. This time, victims of brutal police are Ngo Van Dung and Le Quy Loc, who were arrested in early September 2018 and charged with “disruption of security” under Article 118 of the country’s Criminal Code, a serious allegation which may lead to imprisonment of up to 15 years.

According to other prisoners of conscience held in Phan Dang Luu temporary detention facility under the authority of Ho Chi Minh City Police Department, the two guys were brutally beaten by dozens of police officers on April 12. After that, Mr. Dung, 51, was transferred to Chi Hoa temporary detention facility also under the authority of the city’s police while Mr. Loc, 44, was hospitalized where he was under one-week treatment of the injuries from the assault.

It is unclear the reasons the two guys being tortured by police as they have yet been permitted to meet their relatives.

On May 8, after three days reviewing the case of Ho Duy Hai, who was convicted of murdering two post female workers in Long An in 2018, the 17-member council of the Supreme People’s Court rejected the appeal of the Supreme People’s Procuracy, saying his conviction and death sentence were handled correctly by the first-instance hearing and the appeal hearing. Last year, the Supreme People’s Procuracy issued a decision saying there were serious shortcomings in the investigation in the case and there are clear signs that Hai was wrongly convicted. The decision of the council of judges from the Supreme People’s Court is not a surprise since it was chaired by Mr. Nguyen Hoa Binh, chief of the Supreme People’s Court who was a deputy head of the General Department of Police cum a deputy head of the Investigation Agency of the Ministry of Public Security when the double murder happened, and the head of the Supreme People’s Procuracy in 2011 when the agency denied Hai’s appeal.

The council’s decision has triggered anger among political dissent and activists as well as millions of ordinary citizens who believe that the real perpetrator is still outside and Hai should be freed or at least police have to carry out re-investigation.

On May 8, security forces detained Phung Thuy who was shipping books for the unregistered Liberal Publishing House. They took him to a representative office of the Ministry of Public Security in Ho Chi Minh City where they reportedly tortured him in order to extract information about the illegal publisher which produces books of local dissidents and foreign authors. Despite suffered from various injuries, the shipper successfully escaped from the interrogators in early hours of May 9. Currently, he is under treatment for his injuries in a secret place, fearing of being re-detained by police.

Also on Friday, the People’s Court of Soc Son district, Hanoi convicted two anti-corruption activists Dang Thi Hue and Bui Manh Tien on allegation of “causing public disorder” for objecting the illegal fee collection of Bac Thang Long-Noi Bai BOT toll booth. Hue was sentenced to 18 months and Tien was given 15 months in prison. Because Hue has 24 months of probation in a previous case so she has to serve a total of 42 months in jail. The two are among a dozen of activists who have been imprisoned just because of voicing against wrongly-placed BOT toll booths which belong to companies backed by senior state officials.

===== May 8 =====

Vietnam’s Communist Regime Rejects Appeal of Death Row Inmate Ho Duy Hai Despite Various Shortcomings during Investigation 

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Court has denied the appeal of the Supreme People’s Procuracy regarding the allegation of murder of Long An province-based citizen Ho Duy Hai in the double killing of two local post staffs in 2008.

On May 8, after three days of the hearing, the 17-member council of judges of the Supreme People’s Court issued a decision to reject the appeal of the Supreme People’s Court. All the 17 members of the council, chaired by Chief of Justice Nguyen Hoa Binh, approved the decision which means Hai will be executed unless he will receive an amnesty from the country’s president.

Two victims, Nguyen Thi Hong and Nguyen Thi Van, two sisters working at the Cau Voi Post Office in Thu Thua district, Long An province, were killed during the night of January 13, 2008. Several months later, Hai, at his 22-year age, was arrested and accused of murdering the two girls.

Five months later of the incident, Hai was convicted of killing the two young girls although his fingerprints have not been detected at the scene and his time spending does not support the accusation.

His conviction was based only on his confessions which were made in police custody without the presence of his lawyers and there is solid evidence showing he was beaten and mentally tortured.

In addition, police investigators did not keep the tools believed to be used by the real perpetrator such as a knife and a kitchen board which was reportedly destroyed by people cleaning the crime scene on a day later. Police officers asked people to purchase a knife and a kitchen board from a local market to replace them.

It seems that Long An province’s police officers failed to determine the exact time of the murder, so they missed other suspects. One of such suspect, Nguyen Van Nghi, is a relative of Truong Tan Sang, then Politburo member of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam who later served as the country’s president in 2011-2016. Nghi has been hidden for many years, some sources said he is now residing in the US.


Back to the hearing on May 6-8, it was chaired by Mr. Binh, who may be promoted to higher positions in the next national congress of the party scheduled in January 2021. In 2008, Binh was a deputy head of the General Department of Police cum deputy head of the Investigation Agency under the Ministry of Public Security. In 2011, as the head of the Supreme People’s Procuracy, Binh rejected the appeal of Hai. So today’s decision of the council is not a surprise.

Hai’s lawyer Tran Hong Phong was invited to participate in the three-day hearing, however, he was allowed to present his defense for about 20 minutes of the beginning of the hearing and later was asked to leave the hearing which was full of policemen and Hai’s family was not allowed to enter in the courtroom to observe it.

The council’s decision has disappointed the political dissidents, social activists, and the general public. Being barred from the state-controlled media, they are expressing their anger against the regime and its court system in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. For them, Vietnam’s justice is likely a comedy (there is a comedy star named Công Lý- in Vietnamese also means Justice).

A few years ago, Amnesty International also voiced in the case of Ho Duy Hai. The London-based rights group has called Vietnam’s communist regime to suspend the execution of Hai and open re-investigation to avoid legal miscarriage in the case.

Legal miscarriage is not rare in the one-party Vietnam where the police forces are given too much power and torture is rampant.

In recent years, Vietnam’s regime has compensated a huge amount for a number of individuals victims of legal miscarriage who were wrongly sentenced to death in murder cases in which real killers showed to confess after years of hiding. The victims of legal miscarriage include Nguyen Thanh Chan and Han Duc Long from Bac Can, and Tran Van Them from Bac Ninh. They have been compensated for huge sums for wrongful convictions and long spending behind the bar to wait for execution.

Torture is still a systemic issue even after the country’s parliament ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2014. Dozens of criminal suspects die in police custody every year, and the number hits at least six so far this year, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics.

Also on May 8, the People’s Court of Soc Son district, Hanoi, convicted two anti-corruption activist Dang Thi Hue and Bui Ngoc Tien of “causing public disorders” for objecting illegal collection of transport fee of Bac Thang Long-Noi Bai BOT. Both the activists, who were arrested in October last year, were sentenced to 15 months in prison each. Ms. Hue, who has a 24-month probation in a previous case, has to serve 42-month imprisonment.


Two Anti-corruption Activists Sentenced After Seven Months Being Arrested

 Defend the Defenders: On May 8, the People’s Court of Soc Son district in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi convicted two anti-corruption activists named Dang Thi Hue and Bui Manh Tien on allegation of “causing public disorders” under Article 318 of the country’s Criminal Code.

Specifically, they were sentenced to 15 months in prison each. Due to her 24-month probation sentence earlier, Ms. Hue has to serve her 42-month imprisonment in the coming years.

They were arrested in mid-October last year when they were trying to block the Bac Thang Long-Noi Bai BOT (build-operating-transfer) toll booth to protest its illegal fee collection. Their acts were simply civil but considered as criminal since the BOT toll booths belong to companies backed by senior state officials.

In May last year, Ms. Hue was beaten by plainclothes policemen of Soc Son district. Due to the assault, she suffered a birth miscarriage.

Hue is among dozens of activists speaking up against fee collecting of wrongly-placed BOT toll booths in many places in Vietnam, including the Bac Thang Long-Noi Bai BOT.

Many anti-BOT activists have been persecuted by plainclothes agents and thugs in recent months. Mr. Ha Van Nam and six others were convicted and sentenced to between 18 months and 36 months on the allegation of “disturbing public orders.”

So far this year, Vietnam’s communist regime has convicted four activists with a total of 11 years and three months of imprisonment and three years of probation. In addition, the regime has arrested seven activists, mostly on allegations in the national security provisions of the Criminal Code, raising the number of prisoners of conscience to 247 at least, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics.


Vietnamese Man Arrested For Gambling Dies in Jailhouse Beating

RFA: A Vietnamese man jailed on a gambling charge died in custody on Friday three days after beginning a six-month prison term, with authorities saying he was beaten to death by fellow inmates, and family members vowing to seek justice.

Nguyen Quang Lap, 36, was arrested in February in a gambling case in southeastern Vietnam’s Ba Ria Vung Tau province and was sentenced with 11 other defendants by the Chau Duc District People’s Court to six months in jail.

He began serving his sentence on May 5 and was found dead three days later, family members said.

Police told Nguyen’s family that he had been attacked and beaten by other prisoners, Nguyen’s younger sister Huyen Dieu told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Friday.

“They said that his fellow inmates who had a conflict with him beat him with a cane, causing his death,” Huyen said, adding that her family doubts the account given by police of her brother’s death.

Relatives posted video and images on Facebook on Friday showing Nguyen’s body bearing multiple bruises.

Huyen said that a reporter from Vung Tao later confirmed the police report of the circumstances of Nguyen’s death, telling family members he had died from a beating by fellow prisoners. “But he didn’t show any document confirming this,” she said. “He only repeated what the police had said.”

Vung Tao police are now cooperating with the provincial procuracy and medical examiner’s office to conduct an autopsy and investigation into Nguyen’s death, state media said on Friday.

For further reading: Vietnamese Man Arrested For Gambling Dies in Jailhouse Beating

===== May 9 =====

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

Defend the Defenders: 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 are 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 died 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.

===== May 10 =====

Vietnamese Shipper in Relation with Liberal Publishing House Tortured by Security Officers

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s security forces continue their efforts to demolish the unregistered Liberal Publishing House (LPH), torturing a shipper who provides books printed by the underground publisher to its readers.

According to prominent political dissident and well-known blogger Pham Doan Trang, on May 8, security officers of the Ministry of Public Security made a trap to detain the shipper named Phung Thuy when he was on his way to supply books of LPH to a buyer in Ho Chi Minh City.

Security officers took Mr. Thuy to a representative office of the ministry located in Nguyen Van Cu street, District 1 in HCM City where a group of police officers beat him repeatedly from 9.00 AM of Friday to early hours of Saturday.

During the torture, police officers interrogated him about his relations with Ms. Trang and other activists involving in the affairs of the underground publisher as well as the place Ms. Trang is staying now. Thuy reportedly received serious attacks after giving answers the police officers did not want to hear.

The interrogators used all their professional skills to beat him in his breast, belly, feet, and critical points on his body until he collapsed at midnight on Friday. As his relatives brought some medicines for him, they took their motorbike and forced him to sign in a minute in which he has to confirm that he was treated properly, not being tortured during the working time with the police.

They continued to interrogate and beat him until 3 AM on Saturday (May 9) when Thuy had to call his family to bring the medicines for him. When his relative arrived at the police station, Thuy took this chance, running out of the interrogation room to grab the motorbike of his relative and drive away.

Police officers were chasing him closely like in an action film made by Holywood. With luck, Thuy successfully escaped from angry policemen.

Thuy remains without money and personal documents while the fate of his relatives is unknown, Trang said.

He is among a number of activists being persecuted or harassed in recent months in relation to LPH. Others included Ho Sy Quyet from Hanoi and Vu Huy Hoang from HCM City.

Trang said there is a nationwide campaign of Vietnam’s police to destroy LPH and halt its print and dissemination of books with contents aiming to promote human rights, multi-party democracy, and civil rights in the country ruled by communists for decades. Along with seeking printing facilities of the publisher, police are making tricks to catch its staff and shippers. She has been forced to live in secret places in Vietnam for a long time ago in order to avoid being detained by security forces.