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35th Congress of the FIDH in Quito (Equador) calls for the release of Thich Huyen Quang, Thich Quang Do and Pham Quê Duong

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At the 35th triennial Congress of the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) held in Quito, Equador, from 2-6 March 2004 – the very first to be held in Latin America since the FIDH was founded in 1922 – 144 human rights leagues from 110 countries around the world adopted two resolutions strongly condemning grave and consistent human rights violations in Vietnam.

In an urgent resolution on the forthcoming trial of Pham Quê Duong, 73, the FIDH expressed its “wholehearted support” for the veteran VCP dissident, fearing that he faced “an unfair trial, as is sadly so common in Vietnam today”. Pham Quê Duong, who is accused of “spying”, risks a sentence of 12 years to life imprisonment, or possibly the death penalty under Article 80 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code.

The resolution stressed that Pham Quê Duong, a former colonel in the SRV People’s Army, respected historian and journalist had “tirelessly advocated political reforms and launched initiatives to promote democracy and the respect of fundamental freedoms in Vietnam. During Vietnam’s legislative elections in May 2002, he applied to run as an independent (non-communist) candidate, but was screened out by the authorities on account of his dissenting views”.

Recalling the plight of other detained cyber-dissidents such as Le Chi Quang, Nguyen Khac Toan, Pham Hong Son, Nguyen Vu Binh, the resolution warned : “Pham Quê Duong is the next in a long line of dissidents whose freedom of expression has been stifled on trumped-up charges of “threatening national security”. “2002-2003 were marked by a salient increase in the repression of cross-border communications and the free circulation of ideas and information under the pretext of ‘espionage’” .

In a general resolution on Vietnam, the FIDH Congress strongly condemned the “widespread crackdown” launched in October 2003 against the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV, outlawed since 1981), expressing grave concern that “the brutal and systematic nature of this repression suggests that the Vietnamese authorities are aiming purely and simply to eliminate the traditional UBCV, which represents more than three quarters of Vietnam’s 80 million-strong population”.

Welcoming the historic meeting between UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in April 2003, the Congress reaffirmed its support for the 86-year-old UBCV Patriarch and his Deputy, Venerable Thich Quang Do, 75, both detained incommunicado in their monasteries. Emphasizing the UBCV’s prominent role in the movement for human rights, the Congress called for the immediate release of the two UBCV leaders and the re-establishment of the legitimate status of the outlawed UBCV.

At the FIDH Congress in Quito, the lawyer Sidiki Kaba was re-elected as FIDH President, and Mr Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, was re-elected as FIDH Vice-President by the 144 member leagues.

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