Many Prisoners of Conscience in Xuan Loc Prison Camp Still Under Additional Punishment

Democracy campaigner, labor activist Nguyen Van Duc Do


Defend the Defenders, September 24, 2020


A number of prisoners of conscience in Xuan Loc Prison camp in the southern province of Dong Nai remain under additional punishment after a dispute with prison authorities in May this year, Defend the Defenders has learned.

Currently, Mr. Nguyen Van Duc Do and Mr. Huynh Duc Thanh Binh are held in an isolated area, not being permitted to contact with other prisoners, including criminal prisoners. As part of the punishment, their families are allowed to conduct prison visits once every two months only while other prisoners of conscience can meet their relatives once a month and one more time for receiving stuff and food from their families every month.

As Defend the Defenders reported, in May, a group of prisoners of conscience in Xuan Loc Prison camp held a protest to demand the prison’s authorities allow them to go out during weekends. The prison’s authorities denied their request and sent guards to beat them. Later, they transferred five prisoners of conscience who were considered as leading figures of the protest from an area where many prisoners are held to the isolated area for punishment. In the first week in the isolated area, Do and Binh were placed in solitary cells with one leg being fettered.

Mr. Do’s relatives have reported that along with beating him, the prison’s guards also mixed his food with dirty substances.

The prison’s authorities reportedly told Binh’s mother that they would end punishing him and remove him from the area for punishment if he makes confession for his wrongdoings. However, she said he will never do it since he has committed no violations.

Mr. Do is a vice president of the unsanctioned labor rights group Viet Labor Movement. He was arrested in early November 2016 and later sentenced to 11 years in prison for his peaceful activities and affiliation with pro-democracy activist Luu Van Vinh, who is serving his 15-year imprisonment. Both activists were convicted of subversion by the hearings that failed to meet the international standards for a fair trial.

Meanwhile, Mr. Binh was arrested in July 2017 together with Vietnamese American Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen and Tran Long Phi on allegation of subversion, also for their peaceful activities which aim to promote human rights and multi-party democracy. In 2018, Binh was sentenced to ten years in prison while Nguyen and Phi were given twelve and eight years in prison, respectively.

Torture is still systemic in Vietnam although the communist parliament ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2014. Dozens of suspects or prisoners have been killed or seriously injured in police custody annually.

Former prisoners of conscience have reported that they were often sent to solitary cells after refusing to admit wrongdoings or protesting inhumane treatment in prisons. International standards hold that prolonged solitary confinement of more than 15 days may constitute torture.

Along with sentencing activists to lengthy imprisonment in trials that do not meet international standards for a fair trial, Vietnam’s communist regime sends the convicted activists to prisons far from their families where they were placed in hard living conditions in order to break their mentality. Authorities of prison often place prisoners of conscience in solitary cells as a discipline against those who object to their inhumane treatment.