PARIS, 5 January 2018 (FIDH & VCHR): Vietnam’s unprecedented repression of dissent during 2017 calls for the international community’s renewed engagement with Hanoi on human rights, FIDH and its member organization Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said today.
“The fact that the EU and the US are more interested in signing business deals than talking about human rights has emboldened Hanoi to harden its attacks on basic civil and political rights. It’s time for the international community to vigorously re-engage with Hanoi on human rights,” said FIDH Secretary-General Debbie Stothard.
In 2017, Vietnamese authorities arbitrarily detained or imprisoned at least 46 activists and human rights defenders, including 7 women, for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. The crackdown accelerated in late December 2017, when 15 activists were sentenced to prison terms.
“Vietnam’s accelerated repression at the end of December was strategically timed to coincide with the distractions provided by the end-of-year holidays. The EU and the US should open their eyes and raise their voices to demand the immediate release of all political prisoners and the speedy implementation of much-needed institutional and legislative reforms in Vietnam,” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai.
On 20 December 2017, police and security forces in Ho Chi Minh City beat at least 20 people and detained five of them for participating in a peaceful protest against the Taiwanese-owned company Formosa, which was responsible for a massive environmental catastrophe in Vietnam’s three coastal provinces in 2016.
On 21 December 2017, a court in An Giang Province sentenced five people under Article 88 of the Criminal Code (‘spreading propaganda against the state’) for hanging 26 flags emblazoned with three red stripes (the flag of the former Republic of Vietnam, also known as South Vietnam before 1975) in the province’s Chau Doc Township on 25 April 2017. Nguyen Tan An was sentenced to five years in prison; Huynh Thi Kim Quyen and Nguyen Ngoc Qui received four-year sentences; and Pham Van Trong and Nguyen Thanh Binh were jailed for three years.
On 22 December 2017, a court in Ha Nam Province rejected an appeal by prominent human rights defender Tran Thi Nga against her conviction and nine-year prison sentence under Article 88 of the Criminal Code. The court upheld the lower court’s decision in a hearing from which authorities barred Nga’s family members and supporters. Outside the court, police and security forces took into custody nine activists who had gathered to show support for Tran Thi Nga. At least one of them was beaten by thugs before being arrested.
On 24 December 2017, authorities arrested former political prisoner Doan Van Dien at his home in Lam Dong Province and detained him in the B5 detention center in Dong Nai Province. The reason for his arrest was not immediately known.
On 28 December 2017, a court in Binh Dinh Province sentenced nine people to prison terms ranging from three to 14 years for printing and distributing leaflets. Pham Long Dai, Doan Thi Bich Thuy, Truong Thi Thu Hang, and Tran Thi Bich Ngoc were convicted Under Article 88 of the Criminal Code. Ta Tan Loc, Nguyen Quang Thanh, Huynh Huu Dat, Nguyen Van Nghia, and Nguyen Van Tuan were convicted under Article 79 of the Criminal Code (‘conducting activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration’). In addition, all nine were sentenced to three years of house arrest to be served upon the completion of their prison terms.
FIDH and VCHR are also troubled by the Vietnamese government’s latest move to tighten monitoring of internet content. On 25 December 2017, Deputy Head of the People’s Army Political Department Lt Gen Nguyen Trong Nghia announced that a new 10,000-strong military cyber unit, named ‘Force 47’, had begun operating “to fight proactively against the wrong views.”
FIDH and VCHR reiterate their calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Vietnam and for the repeal of all provisions of the Criminal Code that are inconsistent with the country’s obligations under international law. At least 130 political prisoners remain behind bars in jails across the country. Nearly all of those arbitrarily detained or imprisoned in 2017 were arrested and charged under Articles 79, 88, or 258 (‘abusing democratic freedoms to harm the interests of the state’) of the Criminal Code.
FIDH: Ms. Audrey Couprie (French, English) – Tel: +33648059157 (Paris)
FIDH: Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) – Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok)
VCHR: Ms. Penelope Faulkner (Vietnamese, English, French) – Tel: +33611898681 (Paris)