June 22, 2021
Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly’s Report for June 14-20, 2021: Amnesty International Launches Campaign for Release of HRD Nguyen Thuy Hanh
Defend the Defenders | June 21, 2021
Two months after the arrest of prominent human rights advocate Nguyen Thuy Hanh on the controversial charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code, Amnesty International has launched a campaign for advocacy for her freedom. The London-based group calls on the international community to write a petition to Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc to urge him to release her immediately and unconditionally. The group said Vietnam’s authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Mrs. Hanh as she is a prisoner of conscience, being detained solely for peacefully exercising her human rights and carrying out vital humanitarian work.
In mid June, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion regarding the arrest and the conviction of Mr. Le Huu Minh Tuan, an editor of the unsanctioned professional group Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), saying his arrest was arbitrary and his conviction went against international human rights conventions and treaties Vietnam’s authoritarian regime has signed.
Lawyers of Duong Noi-based human rights defenders Mrs. Nguyen Thi Tam and Mr. Trinh Ba Phuong says their investigation has ended and the Security Investigation Agency under the Hanoi Police Department has transferred the investigation results to the city’s People’s Procuracy with a proposal to prosecute them of the allegation “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Clause 2 of Article 117 of the Criminal Code with potential imprisonment of between ten and 20 years. Their lawyers also said that they have received approval from the local police to meet them in police custody to prepare defense. So far, the two rights activists and land petitioners have been kept incommunicado since their arrests in April last year.
Authorities in the Mekong Delta hub Can Tho City are going to launch an investigation against four members of the Báo Sạch (Clean Newspaper) group on the allegation related to state secret. According to the state-controlled media, Mr. Truong Chau Huu Danh, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Nha, Mr. Doan Kien Giang, and Mr. Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao will be probed for “Deliberate disclosure of classified information; appropriation, trading, destruction of classified documents” under Article 337 of the Criminal Code with potential imprisonment of up to 15 years in prison and an administrative fine of up to VND100 million ($4,200). They were arrested in December 2020-April 2021 on the initial charge of “abusing democratic freedom” due to their blogging focusing on social injustice and government officials’ corruption.
===== June 14 =====
Four Members of “Clean Newspaper” Being Probed for Allegation Related to State Secret
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s state-controlled media has reported that authorities in the Mekong Delta hub of Can Tho will launch an investigation against four members of the Báo Sạch (Clean Newspaper” on the allegation of “Deliberate disclosure of classified information; appropriation, trading, destruction of classified documents” under Article 337 of the Criminal Code with potential imprisonment of up to 15 years in prison and an administrative fine of up to VND100 million ($4,200).
Mr. Truong Chau Huu Danh was arrested on December 17 last year while Mr. Nguyen Thanh Nha, Mr. Doan Kien Giang, and Mr. Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao were arrested on April 20 this year. The four bloggers were initially charged with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the Criminal Code with potential imprisonment of up to seven years if convicted.
According to the state-controlled media, in May, the police in Can Tho completed the investigation on the initial charge and sent the investigation results to the city’s People’s Procuracy with a proposal to prosecute them. However, the procuracy returned the case to the police and requested further investigation for the second charge.
The probe for the second allegation came as the Can Tho’s police reported that they have found a number of state secret documents while searching the private residence of Mr. Danh.
Mr. Danh and other members of the Clean Newspaper group are among those voicing social incidents including the deadly land dispute in Dong Tam in Hanoi in which Vietnam’s authorities sent around 3,000 riot policemen to attack the local land petitioners in early morning of January 9, 2020 to kill communal leader Le Dinh Kinh and arrested 30 of them, and the legal miscarriage of Ho Duy Hai who was found guilty of killing two post workers in 2009 despite lacks of solid evidence against him and a number of wrongdoings of the Long An state agencies includign the police and procuracy.
The arrests of the four members of the group has been condemned by many international rights and professional groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and Amnesty International as well as Human Rights Watch (HRW) while the US said their detention is part of the concerning persecution tendency. They have called on Vietnam’s authoritarian regime to free them and others who were arrested arbitrarily and allow all the citizens to express their opinions freely without fear of being prosecuted.
===== 18/6 =====
WGAD Says Arrest of Independent Journalist Le Huu Minh Tuan Arbitrary, Calling on Vietnam to Free Him
Defend the Defenders: The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has issued a letter saying the arrest and the prosecution of Vietnamese independent journalist Le Huu Minh Tuan arbitrary and calling on Vietnam’s authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.
Mr. Tuan, an editor of the unregistered professional group Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) was arrested on June 12, 2020 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code. In early January this year, he was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison and three years of probation in the same case of IJAVN’s President Pham Chi Dung and his deputy Nguyen Tuong Thuy, who were sentenced to 15 years and 11 years in prison, respectively.
In the Opinion No. 11/2021 concerning Le Huu Minh Tuanadopted by the WGAD at its 90th session on May 3-12, 2021, the WGAD noted that Mr. Tuan’s case is one of many cases brought before the group in recent years concerning arbitrary detention in Vietnam. These cases follow a familiar pattern of arrest that does not comply with international norms, which is manifested in the circumstances of the arrest, lengthy detention pending trial with no access to judicial review, denial or limiting of access to legal counsel, incommunicado detention, prosecution under vaguely worded criminal offences for the peaceful exercise of human rights, and denial of access to the outside world. This pattern indicates a systemic problem with arbitrary detention in Vietnam which, if it continues, may amount to a serious violation of international law.
The WGAD finds that Mr. Tuan’s arrest and prosecution go against many articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in which Vietnam is a signatory party.
The group says Vietnam’s regime should release Mr. Tuan immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.
===== June 18 =====
Amnesty International Calls for Sending Petition to Vietnam’s Authorities for Release of HRD Nguyen Thuy Hanh
Defend the Defenders: After two months of the arrest of prominent human rights advocate Nguyen Thuy Hanh, the London-based human rights group Amnesty International has launched a campaign calling on the international community to write a petition to Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc to urge him to release her.
Mrs. Hanh was detained on April 7 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code carrying a potential prison sentence of up to 20 years. A few years ago, she founded the 50K Fund which provides essential humanitarian support to countless unjustly detained prisoners and their families. The arrest of Nguyen Thuy Hanh is likely to have a serious negative impact on the welfare of many unjustly detained prisoners in Vietnam.
Amnesty International says “her selflessness, sincerity, and tireless work on behalf of those in need have made her one of the most widely respected human rights defenders in Vietnam.”
The right organization which has more than 10 million of members worldwide says Vietnam’s authorities must immediately and unconditionally release her as she is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising her human rights and carrying out vital humanitarian work.
Amnesty International says while pending her release, Vietnam’s authorities should grant prompt, regular and unrestricted access to family visits and access to a lawyer. It requests her treatment in full accordance with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules), and is protected from torture and other ill-treatment, including poor conditions of detention and prolonged pre-trial detention.
===== June 20 =====
Investigation against HRDs Nguyen Thi Tam and Trinh Ba Phuong Ends, Trial Expected Soon
Defend the Defenders: The Security Investigation Agency of the Hanoi Police Department has completed the investigation against local human rights defenders Mrs. Nguyen Thi Tam and Mr. Trinh Ba Phuong on the allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code.
According to their lawyers, the agency has transferred the investigation results to the city’s People’s Procuracy with a proposal to prosecute them under Clause 2 of the article, with potential imprisonment of between ten and 20 years.
On June 20, their lawyers received approval from the city’s police to meet with them in police custody for the first time since their arrests on June 24 last year for defense preparation. So far, they have been kept incommunicado, not allowed to meet with their family’s members nor attorneys.
It is expected their trial(s) will be carried out soon, and given the hard sentences in recent political hearings, Mrs. Tam and Mr. Phuong may be convicted with lengthy imprisonment.
Mr. Phuong, 36, is the biggest son of prisoner of conscience and human rights advocate Can Thi Theu, who together with her second son Trinh Ba Tu was arrested on the same day with the same charge due to their human rights advocacy. On May 5, the People’s Court of Hanoi convicted the 59-year-old mother and the 32-year-old son and sentenced them both to eight years in prison and three years of probation.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Tam started her social affairs objecting land grabbing by Hanoi’s authorities and she was once imprisoned for “causing public disorders.” She often voices against injustice and suppression in the country.
The arrests of Mrs. Tam and Mr. Phuong as well as the detentions of Mrs. Theu and Mr. Tu came due to their advocacy for land petitioners in Dong Tam commune and the extrajudicial killing of the communal leader Le Dinh Kinh and the arrests of about 30 villagers during the bloody raid of around 3,000 riot policemen in the commune on January 9 last year.
In March 2021, the UN Working Group of Arbitrary Detention issued a letter which says the arrests of the four human rights defenders Mrs. Tam, Mrs. Theu and her two sons Phuong and Tu as well as the detention of prominent human rights advocate and well-known political blogger Pham Doan Trang are arbitrary. The agency also calls on Vietnam’s authorities to free them immediately and unconditionally.
Defend the Defenders and many international human rights group have also condemned the arrests of the four human rights defenders and requested for their freedom.