PARIS, 13 February 2012 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights is deeply concerned about the physical integrity of prominent blogger Nguyen Van Hai (alias Dieu Cay), who has been detained incommunicado for the past 16 months on charges of “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam”. His family has been denied all contact with him, and Police refuse to tell them even where he is detained. Dieu Cay’s wife, Mrs. Duong Thi Tan, has expressed fears that he may be gravely ill, or may even have died in detention.
Dieu Cay demonstrating during the Beijing Olympics torch relay in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), April 2008
“Vietnam must disclose the whereabouts of Dieu Cay and immediately release him” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai. “Incommunicado detention is cruel, both for him and his family, as well as totally illegal, and we have seriously concerns as to his physical integrity. Moreover, Vietnam’s Criminal Procedures Code (article 120) limits pre-trial detention to four months, extendable only for “serious” crimes. Dieu Cay’s detention breaks every letter of Vietnamese and international law”, he said.
Mr. Ai recalled that Dieu Cay was on a list of prisoners of concern submitted to the EU by the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), urging the EU to raise them in the EU-Vietnam human rights dialogue in Hanoi in January 2012.
On January 17 and 20, 2012, Mrs. Tan was authorised to send food parcels to her husband for the Lunar New Year (January 23, 2012). On February 1, she went to the Ho Chi Minh City Security Police Investigations Department on 4, Phan Dang Luu Street to ask for a receipt signed by her husband, which is routine procedure for all prisoners’ families. Lieutenant-colonel Pham Van Tan, the officer in charge, would not receive her, and delegated a young police officer to take her complaint. When she explained the case, he went inside the office and returned with a signed receipt. However, the signature was definitely not Dieu Cay’s, she said. On February 6, 2012, she went to the People’s Office of Supervision and Control (the People’s Procuracy or Vien Kiem sat), to for ask news of her husband. She had written to the Office seven times before finally obtaining an appointment. However, when she arrived, they refused to receive her, and told her not to bother coming again.
Mrs. Tan has been worried about her husband’s health for several months. On July 5, 2011, Lt.-Colonel Dang Hong Diep of the Ho Chi Minh City Security Police Investigations Department inadvertently revealed that Dieu Cay had “lost his hand/arm” whilst in detention” (the Vietnamese expression is “mất tay”, which could mean losing either a hand or an arm).
Dieu Cay, a well-known blogger and founder member of the Club of Free Journalists, was arrested on 19, April 2008 and sentenced to two and a half years in prison at an unfair trial on trumped-up charges of “tax evasion” in September 2008. In fact, he had written articles calling for human rights and democratic reforms posted on the Internet, and staged demonstrations during the Beijing Olympic Games. In 2009, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Mr. Dieu Cay to be a victim of arbitrary detention (Opinion 1/2009).
Dieu Cay was due for release on October 19, 2010 after having completed his prison term. However, his family was then informed that he would remain in detention under the new charge of “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” (Article 88 of the Criminal Code). Since this second charge was pronounced, Mrs. Tan and her family have been denied all contacts with him, and both the police and judiciary systematically refuse to give any information on his case. In 2011, she went to the Police Department thirteen times to bring him food parcels. But Police returned them, saying that her husband “would not accept them” In a letter to the Ho Chi Minh City Police Investigations Department on 20 April 2011, she expressed fears for his security: “only dead prisoners refuse food parcels”, she wrote.
The VCHR has repeatedly called on Vietnam to provide information on the case of Dieu Cay but has received no response. On 10, February 2012, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the FIDH and the World Movement against Torture (OMCT) endorsed the VCHR’s concerns and launched an “Urgent Appeal” to the Vietnamese authorities, calling on them to “guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Dieu Cay as well as all other human rights defenders in Vietnam”, and to immediately provide information about him, “including his whereabouts and current state of health, and to respect his rights to receive visits from, and to communicate with his family”.