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Urgent Interventions

Vietnam: Mr. Nguyen Khac Toan sentenced to 12 years in prison and 3 years probationary detention


VTN 001 / 1202 / OBS 073
23rd December 2002

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint FIDH and OMCT programme, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Vietnam.

Brief description of the situation :

The Observatory has been informed by the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, that M. Nguyen Khac Toan was sentenced on December 20th, 2002, to 12 years in prison and 3 years probationary detention by the People's Court in Hanoi for his help to some farmers, who were protesting against state confiscation of land.

According to the information received, M. Nguyen Khac Taon was charged with « espionage » (article 80 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code). The trial was closed to the public. M. Taon's lawyer, M. Tran Lam, was only able to meet his client twice before the trial (on 16th and 19th December 2002), and he was not allowed to speak to him in private. The Communist Party's official mouthpiece Nhan Dan (The People) stated that M. Taon had « slandered and denigrated the executives of the Party and State » by sending electronic letters and by providing information to « exiled reactionaries » overseas.

Over the past two years, M. Taon has helped farmers' representatives to draft petitions to the National Assembly and to the Government, following recent demonstrations in Hanoi staged by farmers and peasants protesting against state confiscation of land. He had also imparted information on these demonstrations and protests via the Internet to Vietnamese Human Rights groups overseas.

M. Nguyen Khac Taon was arrested on January 8th in an Internet café in Hanoi. Police searched his home and confiscated several petitions and documents on the farmers' protests.

M. Khac Taon is detained in the notorious B14 ( Thanh Liet) Prison near Hanoi. According to the information received, Taon's mother, Mrs Tran Thi Quyet, has only been permitted to visit her son once since his arrest. The Observatory considers his arrest and detention to be arbitrary, since it only aims at sentencing his freedom of speech.

This extremely harsh sentence against Nguyen Khac Toan is one more episode in a new crackdown against dissenting voices in Vietnam. Le Chi Quang, a 32 year old law graduate and computer scientist was sentenced to four years in prison on November 8th 2002 for advocating political reform and criticizing government policies by Email. Dr. Pham Hong Son, journalist Nguyen Vu Binh and chemistry professor Vu Ngoc Binh are also currently detained for using the Internet to call for peaceful political reforms, and are expected to stand trial shortly.

Action requested :

Please write to the Vietnamese authorities urging them to :

i. Release immediately M. Khac Traon, M. Le Chi Quang; Dr. Pham Hong Son and M. Vu Ngoc Binh, in reason of the arbitrariness of their detention;
ii. Put an end to any kind of harassment against human rights defenders in Vietnam;
iii. Conform with the disposals of the UN Declaration adopted on 9 December 1998, in particular to its article 1 which provides that "every person has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental liberties at the national and international level” and article 6.b which provides that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms”;
iv. More generally abide by the Universal declaration on Human Rights and Covenants and international Conventions ratified by Vietnam.


- President :
Tran Duc Luong
President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Office of the State, 1 Bach Thao
Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Fax : (+84) 80 44940

- Premier Ministre :
Phan Van Khai
Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, 1 Bach Thao
Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Fax : (+84) 80 44940
- Secrétaire général du Parti Communiste du Vietnam :
M. Nong Duc Manh
Hanoi Fax: (+84) 48 23514

M. Nguyen Nang Tien, Mission permanente de la République socialiste du Vietnam auprès de l’Officce des Nations Unies à Genève, Fax : (+ 41 22) 798 24 69 (+ 41 22) 798 07 24
e-mail :

Geneva - Paris, 23rd December 2002

Kindly inform the Observatory of any action undertaken, quoting the code number of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a joint FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the Emergency Line: Fax : 33 (0) 1 55 80 83 92
Tel. : FIDH 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 OMCT : + 41 22 809 49 39 E-mail
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