PrimeMinister Nguyen Xuan Phuc
Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
01Hoang Hoa Tham
Ba Dinh District
RE: Civilsociety organisations call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Nguyễn Bắc Truyển
We are writingto express our deep concern about the arrest of the human rights defender Nguyễn Bắc Truyển and his incommunicado,arbitrary, detention since the end of July 2017, and to request his immediateand unconditional release.
Mr. Nguyễn BắcTruyển was last seen on July 30, 2017 while he was waiting for his wife nearhis workplace at the Redemptorist Church in Ho Chi Minh City. Later that day, the website of the Ministry ofPublic Security (MPS) announced that he had been arrested along with threeother human rights defenders and is alleged by the authorities to have violatedArticle 70 of the Vietnam Penal Code, which concerns "acting to overthrowthe people’s government", allegedly in connection with the case of humanrights lawyer Nguyễn Văn Đài and hisassistant Lê Thu Hà, who have beendetained without trial since December 2015.
Nguyễn Bắc Truyểnis a Hoa Hao Buddhist born in 1968. He was the first entrepreneur in Vietnam tovoluntarily introduce social compliance and gender equality standards in his businessoperations, which he did with his two companies in 2004. Police arrested him for the first time in 2006and later sentenced him to three and a half years followed by two years of housearrest on a charge of “propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of the Penal Code. The charge arose out of hispro-democracy writing and activism.
After hisrelease in 2010 he participated in the Vietnamese Political and Religious Prisoners FriendshipAssociation, an organization which assists impecunious prisoners and theirfamilies. As a legal expert he provided pro-bono legal assistance to familiesof political prisoners, victims of land grabbing and persecuted religiouscommunities in Southern Vietnam. From 2014 until his most recent arrest he wasthe coordinator of the assistance program for people rendered disabled by war of the Catholic Redemptorist Bureau forJustice and Peace. Truyển was a 2011 recipient of the Hellman/Hammett awardfrom Human Rights Watch in recognition of his human rights work.
Mr. Truyểnmarried in 2013 and was living with his wife, Ms Bùi Thị Kim Phượng inDong Thap Province, where the two also advocatedfor the rights of persecuted Hoa Hao Buddhists. On February 9, 2014 he was detained for one day andexpelled from their home. Days later, after receiving threats, Ms Bùi Thị Kim Phượngalso fled their home to join him in Ho Chi Minh City where they have been living since, unable to returnto Dong Thap.
Thecircumstances of Mr. Truyển’s arrest remainunclear. Nearly three weeks after his arrest, a note from the MPS dated August 14, 2017 and delivered four days later,informed his family that he was being held at Detention Center B14 in Hanoi, 1600 km awayfrom Ho Chi Minh City. Since his arrest he has not been allowed any visit or contact with his wife and his lawyers. Officials at Detention Center B14have repeatedly rejected Ms Bùi Thị Kim Phượng’s requests to visit him. The MPS SecurityInvestigation Bureau also denied his lawyer’s request to visit him on August30, 2017. In the absence of any proceduralsafeguards, we consider the arrest and detention of Mr. Truyển on July 30, 2017 to have been arbitrary in contravention of Vietnam’sinternational legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil andPolitical Rights (ICCPR) and according to the criteria adopted by the UNWorking Group on Arbitrary Detention.
Since Mr. Truyển’sarrest, we receivedregular reports that MPS officials have continuously harrassed his friends and relatives. The police have summonsed several HoaHao Buddhists for interrogation about their relationship with Mr. Truyển. Officials allegedly advised Mr. Truyen’sfriends not to offer any support to Bùi Thị Kim Phượng’s or to assisther efforts to travel to Hanoi to provide him with food and medicine. Whileshe has been able to deliver food to Detention Center B14, the prisonadministration has refused to provide her with any signed document from Mr. Truyển, attesting that he hasreceived the delivery. At the time of writing, officials have not even been allowed Mr. Truyen to call his wife by phone.
Vietnam is astate party to the ICCPR and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), and is obligated to upholdthe rights of all persons deprived of their liberty, including the right to bebrought promptly before a judge and to access legal counsel, as well as to betreated with humanity and dignity and not to besubjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment orpunishment (other ill-treatment). These rights are being violated by thecontinuing incommunicado detention of Mr. Truyển. In addition, any detained person has the rightto take proceedings to a judicial authority to challenge the lawfulness of hisor her detention through habeas corpus or similar proceedings.
The prolongedincommunicado detention of Nguyễn BắcTruyển, which has now lasted almost three months, constitutes aviolation of the prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment under ICCPR’sArticle 7 and CAT, as well as the ICCPR’s Article 10 which guarantees personsdeprived of their liberty the right to be treated with humanity and dignity. WhileVietnamese Criminal Procedure Code Article58 providesfor the suspension of the participation of legal counsel in cases involvingcharges of infringing national security until the conclusion of theinvestigation, this provision itself violatesthe right of access to legal counsel under international human rights law and cannot be used to justify acts that constitute torture or other ill-treatment,the prohibition of which is absolute.
In addition weare concerned that in addition to the violations outlined above, Mr. Truyển’s detentionunder Penal Code Article 79, isitself a violation of a number of rights guaranteedunder the ICCPR, including under Article 9, which prohibits arbitrarydeprivation of liberty.
We aresimilarly concerned that the arrest may have been undertaken in response to hisexercise of international protection rights as a human rights defender,including those guaranteed under ICCPR Article 18, which provides for the rightto freedom of thought, conscience and religion; and Article 19, which providesfor freedom of expression. We recallthat under the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals,Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally RecognizedHuman Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Declaration on Human Rights Defenders) VietNam has a responsibility to protect and facilitate the work of human rightsdefenders, not curtail it.
Mr. Truyển is ahuman rights defender who has peacefully exercised his right to freedom ofexpression to advocate for the rights of others, and has been detained solelyfor his beliefs and the peaceful exercise of rights protected underinternational human rights standards. We call on the government of Vietnam toimmediately and unconditionally release Nguyễn Bắc Truyển and all other personswho are arbitrarily detained, and to cease harassment of his family, colleaguesand fellow activists.
Sincerely and respectfully yours,
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-Asia)
Boat People SOS
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Civil Rights Defenders
Front Line Defenders
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Without Frontiers International
International Commission of Jurists
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within theframework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Stefanus Alliance International
VETO! Human Rights Defenders’ Network
Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), within the frameworkof the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders