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Political prisoner Nguyen Huu Cau is seriously ill in Z30A Prison

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PARIS, 25 March 2013 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) is extremely disturbed by reports that political prisoner Nguyen Huu Cau is seriously ill in Z30A Xuan Loc prison camp in Dong Nai Province. According to his daughter, Nguyen Thi Anh Thu, he is suffering from a heart condition, low cerebral blood flow (ischemia) and is virtually blind in both eyes. He is also very deaf and extremely weak as a result of harsh detention conditions and inadequate medical care in prison.

“Subjecting prisoners to inhuman treatment – especially persons who should never have been detained at all – is inadmissible”, said VCHR President Vo Van Ai. “I call upon UN member states not to support Vietnams candidature for membership of the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 which will be voted at the UN General Assembly in New York in September this year”.

Nguyen Huu Cau in Z30A prison camp  
Nguyen Huu Cau in Z30A prison camp

Nguyen Huu Cau, 66, is one of Vietnams longest detained political prisoners. He has spent a total of 37 years in jail. A former officer in the South Vietnamese army, he was arrested in 1975 after Vietnam was united under Communist rule and spent six years in “re-education camp”. In 1982, he was arrested again for writing poetry and songs about power abuse and corruption of high-ranking Communist Party officials in the province of Kien Giang. He was charged with “sabotage” and sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison, and he has been detained in Z30A prison camp since then.

Nguyen Huu Cau has been frequently held in solitary confinement, and his health has deteriorated seriously over the past few years. Despite this, he has continued to challenge the camp authorities over his unfair detention. Over the past 30 years, Nguyen Huu Cau has written over 500 letters to the authorities demanding a re-trial, but has never received a reply. He refuses to demand clemency or seek early release.

One of the 500 letters sent by Nguyen Huu Cau to the Camp authorities and the Peoples Court to demand a fair trial  
One of the 500 letters sent by Nguyen Huu Cau to the Camp authorities and the Peoples Court to demand a fair trial

Although Vietnam denies that it detains any political prisoners, only people who have “violated the law”, Nguyen Huu Cau and other dissidents are detained in the political section of K2 in Z30A prison camp and subjected to a particularly harsh regime. Their food and utensils are stamped with the letters “C.T.” (chính trị – political), and their rights to receive visits, food parcels or communicate with their families are severely restricted in comparison to those of common criminals (see VCHR report “From Vision to Facts: Human Rights in Vietnam under Vietnams Chairmanship of ASEAN”).

Many political prisoners in Z30A prison camp are currently in very bad health because of poor detention conditions and lack of adequate medical care. The VCHR is deeply concerned for the health of political prisoner Do Van Thai, 53, who is suffering from HIV-AIDS after being forced to shave with the sole razor used by all the other prisoners. He is receiving no medical treatment. Nguyen Tuan Nam, 77, a former officer in the North Vietnamese army, is also very ill. He suffers from lung inflammation and chronic back pain, and cannot walk without help. Nguyen Tuan Nam was arrested in 1996 in Cambodia and sentenced to 19 years in prison for “fleeing abroad with a view to opposing the peoples administration” (article 91 of the Criminal Code).

The VCHR strongly denounces the ill-treatment of prisoners in Vietnam which is grossly inconsistent with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”. Vietnam should release all those detained for the peaceful expression of their opinions and beliefs and improve the detention conditions of all prisoners in Vietnam, in conformity with its pledges as a state party to the ICCPR.

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