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Viet Nam
23.08.22
Urgent Interventions

Vietnam: Rejection of the appeal on the conviction and prison sentence of Trinh Ba Phuong

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information
VNM 001 / 0422 / OBS 026.1
Sentencing /
Judicial harassment /
Arbitrary detention/
Reprisals
Vietnam
August 23, 2022


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Vietnam.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the rejection of the appeal on the conviction and prison sentence of Mr. Trinh Ba Phuong, as well as the reprisals against his relatives as they attempted to attend the appeal trial. Trinh Ba Phuong is a land and environmental rights defender who has denounced land grabbing and its impact on small-scale farmers across the country. He has been arbitrarily detained since June 24, 2020.

On August 17, 2022, the Hanoi High People’s Court upheld the 10-year prison sentence and five years of probation against Trinh Ba Phuong under Article 117 of the Criminal Code of Vietnam (“making, storing or disseminating information, documents, materials and items against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”). The Court also upheld the sentence of five years of probation after his release.

The courthouse was surrounded by dozens of plain-clothes police officers. Mses. Do Thi Thu and Trinh Thi Thao, Trinh Ba Phuong’s wife and sister, respectively, were prevented from attending Trinh Ba Phuong’s trial, as their requests to observe it were ignored by the court, even though the court had declared the trial would be public. Ms. Do Thi Thu was assaulted by a policeman while she attempted to seek refuge at a coffee shop near the courthouse. He slapped her and pulled her back taking her by the neck.

Trinh Ba Phuong was taken to Hanoi Police Detention Centre No.1 after the trial, where he remained detained at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal.

The Observatory recalls that Trinh Ba Phuong was arbitrarily arrested in Hanoi on June 24, 2020, under Article 117 of the Criminal Code. On the same day, in Hoa Binh Province, his mother and brother, Ms. Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Tu, were arbitrarily arrested on the same charge.

Trinh Ba Phuong was subjected to acts of torture and ill treatment throughout the investigation of his case and was confined to a psychiatric hospital for one month in March 2021. He was not allowed to have access to his lawyers until for over one year. On December 15, 2021, the Hanoi People’s Court sentenced him to 10 years in prison and five years of probation. His relatives were not allowed to attend the trial, and the police detained two of his family members, including his father, Trinh Ba Khiem, and his wife, Do Thi Thu. They were released when the trial ended.

The Observatory condemns the unfair convictions, ongoing arbitrary detention, and judicial harassment of Trinh Ba Phuong, as well as Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Tu, and expresses its grave concern over the high risk of torture and ill-treatment they face while in detention. The Observatory urges the Vietnamese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them.

The Observatory further condemns the alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment to which Trinh Ba Phuong has been subjected while in detention, and urges the authorities to carry out an immediate, thorough, and impartial investigation into these allegations and hold those responsible accountable.

The Observatory urges the Vietnamese authorities to stop misusing Article 117 of the Criminal Code to prosecute human rights defenders and silence dissent in Vietnam, and recalls that several United Nations Special Procedures declared that this article is “overly broad and appears to be aimed at silencing those who seek to exercise their human rights to freely express their views and share information with others”.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Vietnam asking them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Trinh Ba Phuong, Can Thi Theu, Trinh Ba Tu, their relatives, and of all other human rights defenders in Vietnam;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Trinh Ba Phuong, Can Thi Theu, and Trinh Ba Tu, as their detention is arbitrary and is merely aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, transparent, and impartial investigation into the alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment against Trinh Ba Phuong, in order to hold those responsible accountable;

iv. Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Trinh Ba Phuong, Can Thi Theu, Trinh Ba Tu, his relatives and all human rights defenders in Vietnam, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals;

v. Guarantee the rights to due process and fair trial to Trinh Ba Phuong, Can Thi Theu, and Trinh Ba Tu, including the unhindered access to their lawyers and family;

vi. Repeal or significantly amend Article 117 of the Criminal Code to bring it into line with Vietnam’s international human rights obligations.

Addresses:

  • Mr. Le Thanh Long, Minister of Justice of Vietnam; Email: longlt@moj.gov.vn / botuphap@moj.gov.vn
  • Mr. Tran Van Son, Minister, Office of the Government (OOG), Email: vpcp@chinhphu.vn
  • H.E. Ms. Le Thi Tuyet Mai, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Vietnam to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland; Email: geneva@mofa.gov.vn
  • Embassy of Vietnam in Brussels, Belgium; Email: vnemb.brussels@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Vietnam in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, August 23, 2022

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • Tel FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
  • Tel OMCT: +41 (0) 22 809 49 39

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