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Vietnam: Deep concern about recent condemnation of nine pro-democracy activists

Open Letter
Vietnam: Deep concern about recent condemnation of nine pro-democracy activists

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H.E. Nguyen Minh Triet, President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,
H.E. Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,
H.E. Nong Duc Manh, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam
Paris 16 October 2009

Your Excellency,

We are writing to you to express our deep concern about the recent condemnation of nine pro-democracy activists in Vietnam for “spreading propaganda against the State”.

Nguyen Xuan Nghia was condemned on 9 October to six years in prison and four years of probationary house arrest, while Nguyen Van Tinh, Nguyen Kim Nhan, Nguyen Van Tuc, Ngo Quynh and Nguyen Manh Son were condemned the same day to sentences ranging from two to four years in prison and two to three years of probationary house arrest. Those sentences followed a two-day trial in Haiphong, and are based on vaguely-defined “national security” provisions in the Penal Code. Those six activists have been convicted for “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (Article 88 of the Penal Code).

This condemnation comes only a few days after the sentencing of three other pro-democracy activists to three to four years in prison and three to four years of house arrest on the same legal grounds: Tran Duc Thach, Vu Van Hung et Pham Van Troi are currently in jail.

They have been condemned for criticizing Vietnam’s policies, notably with regards to China. Arrested in September 2008 for peacefully protesting China’s claims over the Spratly and Paracel Islands and calling for human rights and multiparty democracy, five of them have been declared victims of arbitrary detention by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Assuming the role of Chairman of ASEAN in 2010, we believe, will present the Socialist Republic of Vietnam with the opportunity to demonstrate its commitments to international human rights standards by revising its Criminal Code. We therefore respectfully call upon you to reconsider your position on the proposed revision of the Vietnamese Criminal Code, as called for by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and other UN bodies, and repeal or revise “national security” legislation and other provisions which contradict the right to freedom of expression and are invoked to detain dissidents and human rights defenders.

Moreover, we urge you to ensure that the nine recently condemned peaceful activists be immediately and unconditionally released.

Souhayr Belhassen
President of FIDH

Vo Van Ai
President of Vietnam Committee on Human Rights

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