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Vietnam: Release of Mr. Pham Hong Son, now under house arrest

VIETNAM: Release of Mr. Pham Hong Son, now under house arrest

Geneva - Paris, September 8, 2006. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, welcome the release of Mr. Pham Hong Son, a cyber-dissident, but express their deep concern as he remains under house arrest.

According to the information received from the Vietnam Committee for Human Rights, on August 30, 2006, Mr. Pham Hong Son, a cyber-dissident, was released seven months before the end of his sentence, as part of an amnesty to mark Vietnam’s National Day, on September 2, 2006. Nevertheless, Mr. Pham Hong Son will remain under house arrest for up to three years as part of his sentencing under Article 38 of Penal Code.

Mr. Pham Hong Son had been arrested on March 27, 2002 for having translated and posted online an article entitled “What is Democracy?” that he found on the website of the American Embassy in Vietnam. He had previously written several articles supporting democracy and human rights that he had posted online on Vietnamese discussion websites.

In June 2003, he had been sentenced to 13 years in prison for “espionage”, a punishment that, under international pressure, had been reduced on August 26, 2003 to five years in prison and three years of house arrest (See Observatory 2005 Annual Report).

During his detention, Mr. Pham Hong Son’s health seriously deteriorated from lack of medical treatment and harsh conditions in prison.

On the day of his release, 20 policemen were posted in front of his house, his phone line was cut and his mobile phone was confiscated. In addition, Mr. Pham Hong Son is not allowed to leave his area without authorisation.

The Observatory welcomes the release of Mr. Pham Hong Son and thanks all the persons, organisations and institutions, which intervened in favour of his release. Nevertheless, the Observatory is still very concerned about the fact that he remains under house arrest, as well as about his health condition.

Furthermore, the Observatory recalls that several cyber-dissidents remain detained in Vietnam, including Mr. Nguyen Vu Binh, a journalist, who was arrested on September 25, 2002 and sentenced to seven years in prison in December 2003, for having posted articles “of a reactionary nature”, including an account of human rights violations sent to the United States Congress. The sentence was confirmed on appeal on May 5, 2004. The prison authorities have put pressure on him to make a “self-criticism”, which he has consistently refused (See Observatory Annual Report 2005).

The Observatory calls upon the Vietnamese authorities to strengthen this positive first step, by liberating all remaining prisoners of conscience and opinion, immediately and unconditionally.

More generally, the Observatory urges the Vietnamese authorities to conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998, in particular its article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as with international human rights instruments ratified by Vietnam.
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