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Dissidents Tran Khue and Pham Que Duong face unfair trials in Vietnam

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The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights condemn the forthcoming trials of dissidents Tran Khue and Pham Que Duong to be held on 9 and 14 July 2004 respectively. The organizations protest against the grave violations of freedom of opinion to which such trials contribute, and which should never take place in a country grounded on the rule of law, as Vietnam’s one-Party communist state claims to be.

The FIDH and the Vietnam Committee deplore the fact that, whereas the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is deploying great efforts to prove its good conduct to the international community in order to gain membership of international bodies such as the WTO, the communist authorities continue to blatantly stifle all form of criticism and dissent.

Tran Khue and Pham Que Duong were arrested in December 2002 after they met in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and initially accused of espionage, a crime punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty (Article 80 of the SRV Criminal Code). At their trials on 9 and 14 July, they face charges of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State” (Article 258 of the Criminal Code, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment).

According to FIDH President Sidiki Kaba, “these upcoming trials risk once again being grossly inconsistent with international standards of a fair and impartial trial (no defence lawyer, closed hearing, lack of an independent judiciary etc…), in addition to the arbitrary detention to which Tran Khue and Pham Que Duong have been subjected for the past 17 months”. For Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights and FIDH Vice-President, “Pham Quê Duong’s conviction will be particularly symbolic of Vietnam’s refusal to advance towards a free society, since it will take place on 14 July, the very same day France celebrates the fall of the notorious Bastille prison”.

The FIDH and the Vietnam Committee stress that these trials should never be taking place because Tran Khue, a 68-year-old academic and Pham Que Duong, 73, a retired colonel in the People’s Liberation Army and respected military historian, have committed absolutely no crime under Vietnamese law. Both men are detained simply for exercising their legitimate right to freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed under the 1992 SRV Constitution. Moreover, they had both done their utmost to express their grievances through official legal channels such as :

– In September 2001, they filed an application to set up an independent anti-corruption association. In response, they were arrested, harassed and subjected to non-stop Police surveillance, harassments and interrogations ;

– On 2 August 2002, they were among 21 intellectuals who signed a Petition to the National Assembly and the Vietnamese leadership calling notably for the creation of an independent anti-corruption body, the respect of all rights guaranteed in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which Vietnam is State party), the abolition of Decree 31 which authorizes administrative detention without trial, and the creation of a constitutional court ;

– In May 2002, Pham Que Duong applied to run as candidate in the elections for the National Assembly. Although he fulfilled all the legal requirements and is a very popular figure in his local Hanoi constituency, the authorities rejected Pham Que Duong’s candidature on account of his dissenting views.

The FIDH and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights call on the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release Tran Khue and Pham Que Duong, and announce that they are immediately alertings the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on this case.

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