Viet Nam: Pro-democracy bloggers face harsh penalties in upcoming trial
JOINT PRESS RELEASE - THE OBSERVATORY
Pro-democracy bloggers face harsh penalties in upcoming trial
August 1, 2012. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a
joint FIDH and OMCT programme, together with the Vietnam Committee on Human
Rights (VCHR), call on the Vietnamese authorities to drop all charges against
three pro-democracy bloggers and release them immediately and unconditionally. Mr.
Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay), Mr.
Phan Thanh Hai and Ms. Ta Phong Tan are scheduled to be tried by the Ho Chi
Minh People’s Court on August 7, 2012 at 8am.
these bloggers on trial during summer holidays behind closed doors reveals the
government’s fear of media and international scrutiny. On July 31, 2012, the
Observatory and VCHR wrote to the European Union delegation to Viet Nam and to
31 embassies of African, Asian, European, and Latin American states,
urging them to call on Viet Nam to drop the charges against the bloggers and to
send high-level observers to access the courtroom in order to attend the trial
on August 7.
three outspoken bloggers have been charged under Article 88.2 of the Criminal
Code for “conducting propaganda against the state” for their online writings
and criticisms of the government. They face a maximum of 20 years in prison if
convicted. Article 88 is among several repressive provisions in Vietnamese law
that are routinely used to criminalise free speech and imprison peaceful
his detention, Mr. Dieu Cay has reportedly faced intense pressure from the
authorities to plead guilty to the charges laid against him, which he has
consistently refused. His lawyers also stated that Mr. Dieu Cay went on hunger
strike in prison in March 2012 to protest his detention, and had to be
hospitalised. He was previously convicted on trumped-up charges of ‘tax
evasion’ after a manifestly unfair and closed trial in 2009 and the United
Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared his detention to be
arbitrary and in violation of international law.
His current prolonged detention began on October 19, 2010, the same day he
completed the prison terms he received in 2009. Mr. Phan Thanh Hai and Ms. Ta
Phong Tan have also been in pre-trial detention in Ho Chi Minh City since their
arrest, respectively on October 18, 2010 and on September 5, 2011.
his online writings, Mr. Dieu Cay, one of the founders of the Club of Free
Journalists, calls for greater respect for human rights and democratic reforms.
He is also known for his criticisms of China’s claims over disputed islands in
the South China Sea. In January 2008, Mr. Dieu Cay and other activists staged
an anti-China demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City.. Before their arrests, Mr. Hai
has published a number of articles on his blog, including one that criticised
and called for the repeal of Article 88 of the Criminal Code, while Ms. Tan has
blogged about police abuse and violations of human rights by the State.
plans to run for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, but it no longer even
makes an effort to put up a façade of compliance with international human
rights law, as it regularly parades human rights defenders before kangaroo
courts and makes a crime out of free speech”, said Mr. Vo Van Ai, President
addition, on July 30, 2012, Ms. Ta Phong Tan’s mother (Mrs. Dang Thi Kim Lieng)
immolated herself outside the People’s Committee headquarters in Bac Lieu to
protest her daughter’s unfair imprisonment. She had suffered repeated Police
harassments and interrogations since her daughters’ arrest. She died later the
2009, Vietnamese human rights and pro-democracy bloggers have been harassed,
intimidated, arrested and jailed for their online writings and activism. Those
imprisoned for their Internet activities include Mr. Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Mr.
Nguyen Tien Trung, Mr. Le Thang Long, and Mr. Tran Kim Anh.
On July 13, Government agents attacked bloggers Nguyen Hoang Vi, Bui Thi Minh
Hang and Lee Nguyen while they were driving back after a birthday party in Ho
Chi Minh City. Mrs. Duong Thi Tan, Mr. Dieu Cay’s wife, was also in the car
when the attack occurred.
and other netizens who participated in or tried to attend anti-China
demonstrations in several cities in early July also faced intimidation. On July
1, a group of knife-wielding men, allegedly led by the son of a local official,
entered the house of outspoken blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh in Hanoi and attacked
him, after he came home from the demonstrations. Bloggers Ms. Nguyen Hoang Vi
and Ms. Huynh Thuc Vy were among several people briefly taken into police
custody and interrogated during or after the anti-China demonstrations in Ho
Chi Minh City. Following an appeal to support the July 1 demonstrations
launched by Venerable Thich Quang Do, leader of the Unified Buddhist Church of
Vietnam (UBCV), Police forcibly impeded Thich Quang Do and at least sixteen
UBCV monks from joining demonstrations in Ho Chi Minh City and Hue. Several
monks were assaulted by Police.
Nguyen Xuan Dien, whose online writings focus on abuses of land rights, has
recently been questioned by the authorities over his Internet activities. It
also appears that his blog had been attacked by hackers. As of writing,
articles no longer appear on Mr. Dien’s blog.
escalation of crackdown on online dissent comes amidst a government effort to
pass a new Decree on Management, Provision, and Use of Internet Services and
Information on the Network that, if adopted in its current form, would grant
the authorities expansive discretionary power to censor, control and possibly
criminalise Internet use in Viet Nam. In June 2012, the UN Human Rights Council
adopted by consensus a resolution affirming the right to freedom of expression
must be protected online, and that States are called on to “promote and
facilitate access to the Internet”.
prosecution of ‘speech crimes’ will only worsen if the new draft Internet
decree is adopted, and the international community must urge Viet Nam to break
away from its already atrocious record in respecting freedom of expression”,
warned Debbie Stothard, Deputy Secretary-General of FIDH.
proceedings behind closed doors not only violate Viet Nam’s obligations under
international law, they also clearly indicate that the judicial authorities
have no intention to try the defenders according to international fair trial
standards. But the bloggers’ pleas for justice will be heard even behind those
doors”, said Gerald Staberock, Secretary-General of the World Organisation
Against Torture (OMCT).
Tran Nhat: +33 1 45 98 30 85
FIDH: Karine Appy +33 1 43 55 14 12 / + 33 1 43 55
OMCT: Isabelle Scherer: +41 22 809 49 39