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Environmental and Human Rights Defenders in Vietnam spend International Human Rights Day behind bars

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PARIS, 10 December 2023 (VCHR) – As the world marks the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) recalls that thousands of human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, climate change activists, workers’ rights advocates and religious and political dissidents are imprisoned in countries all over the world for peacefully advocating the fundamental and inalienable rights enshrined in the UDHR.

In Vietnam, more than 200 prisoners of conscience are arbitrarily detained, often under harsh conditions in prisons far away from their homes for the “crime” of advocating freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and freedom of religion or belief. Most were convicted at unfair trials under vaguely-worded “national security” provisions in Vietnam’s Criminal Code. Others, including six environmental rights leaders have been detained under politically-motivated charges of “tax-evasion” for engaging to protect the environment and promote a clean energy transition in Vietnam.

On this 10 December, VCHR highlights the cases of ten prisoners of conscience who are detained in Vietnam in violation of international law. “We urge the international community to unite in condemning their arbitrary detention” said VCHR President Penelope Faulkner, “and call upon the government of Vietnam, which has a duty of exemplarity as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, to respect its obligations under the UDHR and ensure the unconditional release of all persons detained for their peaceful exercise of internationally-recognized human rights”.

Dang Dinh Bach

Đặng Đình Bách, an environmental lawyer, Chair of the Law and Policy of Sustainable Development Research Centre (LPSD), was accused of “tax evasion” and sentenced to five years in prison at an unfair trial in Hanoi in January 2022. He is detained in Prison No. 6, Nghệ An province, where conditions are notoriously harsh. The authorities threaten to expel his wife and baby from their Hanoi home to retrieve the alleged tax money (see website https://www.standwithbach.org).

Hoang Thi Minh Hong

Hòang Thị Minh Hồng is founder of CHANGE, an NGO advocating action on climate change, the environment and wild-life protection. She is a high-profile activist, Obama Foundation scholar, listed in 2019 by Forbes among the 50 most influential women in Vietnam. She was forced to close down CHANGE in 2022 after harassment by the government. Hồng was arrested in June 2023 for “tax evasion” and sentenced to three years in prison in September 2023 at a trial that lasted only three hours.

Pham Chi Dung

Phạm Chí Dũng is a journalist, founder of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vietnam (IJAV). He was arrested in 2019 after calling on the European Parliament to postpone ratification of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement pending human rights progress in Vietnam. Charged with “disseminating information against the State” (Article 117 of the Criminal Code), he was sentenced to 15 years in prison in January 2021. He is currently detained in Xuân Lộc prison camp in Đồng Nai province.

Pham Doan Trang

Phạm Đoan Trang is an award-winning writer, journalist and pro-democracy advocate, founder of the online magazine Luật Khoa (Law). She has suffered frequent beatings in police custody during her many years of activism. In 2020, Trang was arrested for “anti-State propaganda” and sentenced to nine years in prison at an unfair trial in Hanoi in December 2021. She is detained in An Phước Prison, 1,500 km away from her home, and is reportedly in very poor health.

Nguyen Tuong Thuy

Nguyễn Tường Thụy is a journalist and blogger, Vice-President of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vietnam. He was arrested in 2020 and sentenced to 11 years in prison along with Phạm Chí Dũng in January 2021 charged with “anti-State propaganda”. He is currently detained An Phước prison, 1,500 km from his home. He is over 70 years old and suffers from high blood-pressure.

Nguyen Thi Tam

Nguyễn Thị Tâm is a land rights activist. She has been imprisoned several times for demonstrating against state confiscation of lands. Arrested in 2020, she was charged with “anti-State propaganda” and sentenced to six years in prison in January December 2021. She is detained in Gia Lai prison, over 1,000 km from her home. She is suffering from uterine fibroids, but has been denied adequate medical treatment.

Truong Minh Duc

Trương Minh Đức, is a journalist and former prisoner of conscience. In 2007 he was jailed for five years for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state”. Arrested again in 2017, he stood trial with members of the Brotherhood for Democracy for “activities aimed to overthrow the people’s administration” (Article 109 of the Criminal Code). He was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He is currently detained in No. 6 Prison in Nghệ An province, 1,400 km away from his home.

Can Thi Theu

Cần Thị Thêu is a leading land rights activist and former prisoner of conscience. She has suffered repeated assaults and harassment for her activism. In May 2021, she and her son Trịnh Bá Tư were sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of “anti-State propaganda” for engaging in land rights protests. Her other son, Trịnh Bá Phương received a 10-year sentence in December 2021. She is currently detained in Prison No. 5 in Thanh Hóa province

Tran Bang

Trần Bang (aka Trần Văn Bàng), is a pro-democracy activist. He has participated in demonstrations and written extensively on social media. In March 2022, he was arrested on charges of “anti-state propaganda” andcondemned to eight years in prison at a trial that lasted less than three hours. He was transferred to Bố Lá Prison in September 2023. His family reports that his health has declined alarmingly due to harsh detention conditions and lack of access to medical care.

Nguyen Thuy Hanh

Nguyễn Thúy Hạnh is a human rights defender. In 2017, she set up the 50K Fund to support prisoners of conscience and their families. The authorities froze the account in 2020, and arrested her in April 2021 on charges of “anti-state propaganda”. She is currently in pre-trial detention in Hanoi. For the past year, she has been interned in a psychiatric facility to treat depression. Her family have no information about what treatment she is receiving, and say that her health has declined rapidly in recent months.

This post is also available in: French Vietnamese

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