February 1, 2019, a group of nine EU Parliament’s members from different political parties, jointly sent a letter to Vietnam’s President Nguyen Phu Trong, asking for the unconditional release of environment and labor rights defender, Hoang Duc Binh.
The letter reminded Vietnam that “the promotion and protection of fundamental rights must remain a common benchmark” for the continuing negotiation of the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Vietnam.
According to the MEPs’ letter:
The EVFTA commits the European Union and Vietnam to respect and effectively implement such principles and fundamental rights as provided in the ICCPR.
The European Council has delayed the EV-FTA’s ratification process due to “technical reasons” according to two other MEPs, Jude Kirton-Darling and Ramon Tremosa. They released a video clip on January 22, 2019, demanding that Vietnam improves its human rights records for the EV-FTA to proceed.
Almost one year ago, on February 6, 2018, a court in Central Vietnam convicted Hoang Duc Binh on two separate charges, “resisting officers acting under their duty,” and “abusing freedoms and democratic rights to infringe upon the State’s interest or the rights and interests of other entities and individuals.” (Articles 257, 258 of the 1999 Penal Code, amended as 330, 331 under the 2015 Penal Code).
Binh was sentenced to the maximum term of 7 years for each of the offenses, which meant that the court found his conduct to be “seriously harmful” to the public according to the sentencing guidelines.
Binh maintained his innocence, stating that all he did was accompanying a group of fishermen and a Catholic priest to travel from Nghe An to Ha Tinh to file their civil suits against Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation.
Formosa Ha Tinh was the main culprit that had paid 500M USD to settle the damages they caused in the environmental disaster which affected four coastal provinces in Central Vietnam back in 2016.
In recent months, Hoang Duc Binh’s family has raised concerns about his deteriorating health conditions after each visitation.
The letter was signed by Barbara Lochbihler (Greens/EFA), Wajid Khan (S&D), Petras Austrevicius (ALDE), Anne-Marie Mineur (GuE), Ana Gomes (S&D), Karoline Graswander-Hainz (S&D), Reinhard Bütikofer(Greens/EFA), David Martin (S&D), and Marietje Schaake (ALDE).
The MEPs asked that Hoang Duc Binh “to be immediately and unconditionally released” and that he will be “allowed to remain inside his home country, Vietnam, and not forced into exile as a precondition for his release.”