GENEVA, 14 September 2012 (VCHR) – Speaking today on behalf of Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme and the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), Mr. Vo Van Ai (VCHR President) informed the United Nations Human Rights Council of the multiple forms of repression implemented by the Vietnamese government to stifle civil society voices. He submitted a list of 180 political and religious prisoners in Vietnam, many of whom are serving extremely harsh sentences simply for the peaceful expression of their opinions and beliefs.
Mr. Ai particularly condemned the “subtle but relentless” repression against the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), which is targeted by the Communist Party because of its long-established presence and wide support in Vietnam. To escape international scrutiny, the authorities use low-profile tactics of intimidation, administrative harassments, or arbitrary detention without trial (“pagoda arrest”), such as that of the UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do, who has spent almost 30 years in prison or house arrest, and is currently held under house arrest at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) without any justification or charge.
Bloggers and journalists are imprisoned under an arsenal of vaguely-defined anti-human rights laws which have been roundly denounced by the United Nations and international organizations worldwide, he said, adding that trials are routinely unfair and the principle of presumption of innocence is denied. He noted the case of journalist Hoang Khuong, a reporter on the official paper Tuoi Tre (Youth) who was sentenced last week at an unfair trial to 4 years in prison (7 September) for “corruption”, whereas in fact he had written articles exposing Police corruption which led to the conviction of a policeman. Mr. Ai also expressed concern for the upcoming trial of bloggers Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay), Phan Van Hai and Ta Phong Tan, members of the Club of Free Journalists, which has been repeatedly postponed as a result of international outcry, including appeals for their release by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (3 August 2012) and US President Barack Obama (on International Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2012).
STATEMENT BY VO VAN AI
AT THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme and its partner organization, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, wish to express their deep concern about the multiple forms of repression deployed by the authorities against civil society in Vietnam.
Indeed, far from the eyes of the international community, Vietnam subjects the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) to a subtle but relentless repression. UBCV followers and members of 20 UBCV Provincial Committees set up to aid the poor and needy suffer daily harassments and intimidation. UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do, who has spent almost 30 years in detention, is still under house arrest without charge at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City. He is not allowed to practice his religious activities. Each Sunday, when anti-China demonstrations are held in the city, he is held strictly incommunicado at the Monastery.
In Danang, the authorities have banned UBCV monks, nuns and followers from celebrating Buddhist festivals on the grounds that the UBCV is “reactionary, unlawful and against the government”. In August 2012, UBCV monk Thich Thanh Quang and Le Cong Cau, leaders of the UBCV provincial committee and Buddhist Youth Movement, were brutally beaten by thugs whilst the Police looked passively on. Not only did the Police make no attempt to intervene, but they summoned Le Cong Cau for interrogations at the Police station.
At the same time, Vietnam represses bloggers and journalists beneath a veneer of legality that is totally incompatible with international law. Using “catch-all” provisions in Vietnam’s legislation, the government stifles all discordant and dissenting voices.
Anti-corruption journalist Hoang Khuong, a reporter for the official press, was sentenced to four years in prison on 7 September 2012 on charges of “corruption”, whereas, on the contrary, his articles exposed corruption in the ranks of the Police.
Bloggers Nguyen Van Hai (blog name Dieu Cay), Phan Thanh Hai (AnhBaSaigon) and Ta Phong Tan (Truth and Justice) are awaiting trial on charges of “disseminating propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (Article 88 of the Penal Code). In fact, they simply wrote articles calling for the respect of human rights and democracy. Their trial, which was to be held in April 2012, was delayed three times because of international pressure and has since been postponed sine die.
These cases, which are just the tip of the iceberg, show that the rule of law is not yet a reality in Vietnam. Citizens can be accused of phantasmagoric crimes or be condemned in advance before they are brought to trial if it suits the authorities, and have no other choice but to remain silent. We take this opportunity to present the Council with a list of 180 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.
Vietnam must cease these blatant violations of freedom of expression and religion, and guarantee the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence (article 9 of Vietnam’s Criminal Procedures Code).
We therefore call upon the Human Rights Council to urge Vietnam to cease repression against the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and immediately release its leader, Thich Quang Do. In accordance with the Concil’s 2012 resolution on freedom of expression on the Internet, bloggers Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay), Phan Thanh Hai and Ta Phong Tan should be immediately released.
Thank you, Madam Chairman.