NEW YORK, 26 September 2008 (IBIB) – Addressing Ministers of over 100 member-states of the United Nations Democracy Caucus meeting at the UN General Assembly in New York today (Friday 26th September), the Non-governmental International Steering Committee of the Community of Democracies (ISC/CD) condemned the recent arrests and repression of students and youths staging peaceful demonstrations in Vietnam. In a Statement to the UN Democracy Caucus which also covered a wide range of concerns including Burma, Russia and Georgia, the ISC/CD Chairman Mr. Paul Graham (South Africa) stressed that such repression in Vietnam was especially inappropriate from a country that sits on the UN Security Council.
Many of the young people arrested in this recent crack-down were participating in protests against China’s claims of sovereignty over the disputed Spratly (Truong Sa) and Paracel (Hoang Sa) archipelagos. Dozens were intercepted by Security Police on 10-12 September 2008 on the eve of a peaceful demonstration planned outside the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi. Police banned the demonstration, and placed many activists under surveillance and effective house arrest. Those still in custody include Pham Van Troi, 35, writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia, Pham Thanh Nghien, Vu Hung, Nguyen Van Tuc, etc. They are reportedly detained at B14 Prison (Thanh Liet) near Hanoi, charged with “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (Article 88 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code). Several activists were allegedly arrested during midnight Police raids on their homes, in violation of Vietnam’s Criminal Procedures Code which stipulates that citizens cannot be arrested at night. Other young people detained in this crack-down include student Ngo Quynh, arrested on 10 September as she went to participate in a mass rally by Catholics in Thai Ha parish in Hanoi. The head of the AP Hanoi Bureau, Ben Stocking, was intercepted and assaulted by Police for taking photos at this rally.
Another vocal critic of China’s policies on the Spratly and Paracel islands, prominent blogger Dieu Cay (Nguyen Hoang Hai), was sentenced on 10 September to 30 months in prison at an unfair trial in Ho Ch Minh City (Saigon). Although he was convicted of “tax evasion”, his lawyer said these were spurious charges. Dieu Cay had been detained for interrogations a least 15 times since he unfurled a banner outside the Opera House in Saigon and posted articles on the Internet about the disputed territories.
Mr. Vo Van Ai, member of the Non-governmental International Steering Committee of the Community of Democracies and President of the Paris-based Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam who was in New York for the meeting, warmly applauded the ISC/CD members from Africa, the Middle East, Europe Asia and the Americas for their solidarity with dissidents in Vietnam. “Raising their plight before the UN Democracy Caucus is a crucial way of drawing international attention to the grave, ongoing abuses of human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam, where citizens face arrest simply for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. We urge democratic nations to work together in the UN to ensure that Vietnam respects its binding obligations to uphold and guarantee its citizens’ freedoms and rights”.
The Non-governmental International Steering Committee of the Community of Democracies (ISC/CD), established in 2005, is composed of 25 representatives from all over the world. It is the governing body for civil society of the Community of Democracies, a global grouping of democratic and democratizing states launched in Warsaw in 2000 as a forum for strengthening international cooperation for democracy and human rights promotion. The Community’s participants established the UN Democracy Caucus to coordinate common positions on democracy and human rights in the United Nations, and the UN Democracy Fund. Since the UN Democracy Fund was established over two years ago, it has raised over 100 million US Dollars to fund civil society projects to promote democratic initiatives worldwide.