Geneva-Paris, October 31, 2006. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), express their deep concern regarding the situation of Mr. Thich Quang Do, Deputy Leader of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV).
Indeed, on September 21, 2006, the Norwegian Rafto Foundation announced that Mr. Thich Quang Do will receive the 2006 Professor Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize for his contribution to the movement for religious freedom and human rights in the country and as a “symbol for the growing democracy movement in Vietnam”.
In order to receive his prize, which will be presented in Bergen, on November 4, 2006, Mr. Thich Quang Do was invited to Norway. However, he is unable to leave Vietnam as he remains under house arrest since 1982, along with patriarch Mr. Thich Huyen Quang, also a UBCV member (See Observatory Annual Report 2005). Mr. Thich Quang Do fears that even if the authorities were to allow him to leave the country, he may be prevented from returning and forced into exile. He therefore would not wish to take such a risk. As a consequence, Mr. Thich Quang Do asked Mr. Vo Van Ai, International Spokesman for UBCV, to receive the prize on his behalf.
On September 25, 2006, in a visit to Hanoi, Ms. Erna H. Solberg, Chair of the Norwegian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, met with the Vietnamese Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and strongly urged them to release Mr. Thich Quang Do and allow him to travel to Norway to receive the Prize. So far, Vietnam has made no reply.
The Observatory recalls that UBCV members are regularly subjected to acts of harassment, and that on October 9, 2003, Mr. Thich Quang Do and Mr. Thich Huyen Quang were both charged with “holding State secrets” (Articles 263 and 264 of the Criminal Code).
The Observatory urges the Vietnamese authorities to put an immediate end to Mr. Thich Quang Do’s house arrest and guarantee his freedom of movement in all circumstance, in conformity with article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides that “everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own” and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country”.
More generally, the Observatory calls upon the authorities to put an end to any act of harassment against human rights defenders, and to conform with regional and international human rights instruments, in particular the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998.
For more information, please contact:
OMCT: 00 41 22 809 49 39
FIDH: 00 33 1 43 55 25 18