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Human Rights

Vietnam: The True Victims Of Political Repression

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From the left: Pham Doan Trang, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, Nguyen Thuy Hanh, Can Thi Theu, Pham Chi Dung, Trinh Ba Phuong. Graphic: Luat Khoa Magazine.

The Absence of Choice

National elections in any part of the world are always interesting to observe. What occurs in them tends to range from comically hilarious, to shockingly horrifying, to essentially pivotal in the future progress and growth of a country. And as much as some people might say otherwise, whoever wins these elections matter; they are an important factor that determines the direction a nation will steer itself in over the coming few years. 

Living in a Communist state, Vietnamese citizens do not get the same opportunity afforded to other people in democratic countries during their general election. The Vietnamese people do not get to choose the top elected officials in their own nation; such a decision is left to the Politburo.

In effect, the direction in which the leaders of Vietnam steer the nation tends to be a one-way street with very few deviations to the plan and to the overall end goal.

While there are indeed some benefits to this kind of system, a long hard look at the failures of communist states of the past tends to raise more than a few eyebrows.

Hence, it should come as no surprise that a significant number of Vietnamese citizens do not approve of how their government handles elections, or how their leaders run the country. 

Faces in the Crowd 

CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organizations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world, released a report on March 29, 2021 detailing how several activists in Vietnam were targeted, arrested, detained, or tortured by the government. 

CIVICUS noted that leading up to the conclusion of the 13th National Congress of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) on February 2, 2021, the Vietnamese government and state security forces had been intensifying a crackdown on whoever they perceived to be critical of the regime.

An alarming  number of Vietnamese citizens were arrested, detained, or even tortured on the basis of trumped-up charges and the overuse of vaguely defined Vietnamese penal laws. 

Following are just some of the people mentioned in the CIVICUS report.

Tran Duc Thach at his trial. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Tran Duc Thach, an activist, writer, and co-founder of Vietnam’s Brotherhood for Democracy, was convicted on December 17, 2020. He was charged with subversion under Article 109 of the country’s criminal code and was sentenced to 12 years in prison and three years’ probation. 

State prosecutors claimed that his posts on Facebook “threatened social stability, encroached upon national independence and socialism, reduced people’s trust in the political institution of the state of Vietnam, and infringed upon national security and social safety and order.” On March 24, 2021, his appeal was denied and his sentence was upheld.

In December 2020, Nguyen Dang Thuong, Huynh Anh Khoa, and Tran Trong Khai were sentenced to serve 18, 15, and 12 months in prison, respectively. The three were administrators of a Facebook political discussion group. They were arrested under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code for “abusing democratic freedom rights to infringe upon the benefits of other individuals and/or organisations.” 

Their Facebook group had a following of around 46,000 users before it was shut down.

From left to right: Le Huu Minh Tuan, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Pham Chi Dung. Graphic: Luat Khoa Magazine

On January 5, 2021, Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Le Huu Minh Tuan were convicted for allegedly “making, storing, and disseminating documents and materials for anti-state purposes” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. The three men are all members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN). They wrote blogs and articles critical of the Vietnamese government. Nguyen Tuong Thuy also testified in front of the US House of Representatives in 2014 regarding the lack of freedom in Vietnam. 

Dinh Thi Thu Thuy. Photo: The 88 Project.

Dinh Thi Thu Thuy, an environmental activist, was jailed for seven years on January 20, 2021, after having been in police custody since April 2020. She was charged with “conducting propaganda against the state,” also under Article 117 of the Penal Code. Thu Thuy had made just a total of five social media posts that had garnered a total of 130 likes and 50 shares. 

Phan Bui Bao Thy and Le Anh Dung, two Vietnamese state media bloggers, were detained on February, 10, 2021, for publishing articles accusing provincial officials in Quang Tri Province of corruption. They were charged with “abusing press freedoms.” Phan Bui Bao Thy was the bureau chief of the online magazine Age and Education.

More recently on March 9 2021, Tran Quoc Khanh was detained for “defaming the government and distorting its policies.” He had used his personal social media page to post about the state’s human rights abuses, corruption, and the South China Sea. He is currently held in pre-trial detention and if found guilty faces 12 years in prison.

Tran Huynh Duy Thuc at his trial.

Nguyen Van Hoa, a contributor for Radio Free Asia (RFA), and Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, an imprisoned blogger, started hunger strikes in protest against the appalling conditions in Vietnamese prisons. Hoa was arrested in the past for filming a toxic waste spill after the Formosa environmental disaster happened in Vietnam in 2016. Tran Huynh Duy Thuc has remained in prison since his arrest in May 2009.

Nguyen Van Duc Do, an activist currently incarcerated for “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the 1999 PenalCode, has been in prison since October 5, 2018. Amnesty International reports that he has been in solitary confinement since May 2020 and has been subjected to various forms of torture. According to the human rights group, both his legs were bound by chains for 10 consecutive days. He was also fed food mixed with human excrement. 

The Measure of Their Reach

These people are just a drop in the ocean compared to the total number of Vietnamese who are facing the ire of the government. In reality, it is difficult to ascertain how many people have been subjected to unjust prosecution by the Communist Party. Yet, the one thread that seems to be in common with all of them is that they were all very vocal in their criticisms. 

It would be easy to claim that only high profile individuals are the target of the ever watchful gaze of state authorities. Yet, Dinh Thi Thu Thuy only made five social posts and she was sentenced to 7 years in prison. Even members of the Vietnamese state media itself – like Phan Bui Bao Thy – were arrested. 

On social media, a person’s message can reach 10, a hundred, a thousand, or even a million people. However, the popularity of your posting hardly even matters in the eyes of the Vietnamese government. If the regime does not approve the message’s content, it will treat everyone equally, everyone as the same, because no one is above the VCP’s supreme authority. That would mean it will arrest and sentence anyone who dares to write in contradiction with its propaganda. 

Anyone is in danger, no one is secure, and even the slightest word critical of the government might be the last one you ever get to say. 

All the people mentioned above and the countless others like them are indeed victims of a government so thin-skinned that it responds to even the slightest whiff of dissent with arrests, coercion, and brute force. Yet, these journalists, activists, and human rights defenders account for just a tiny part of the whole. They are not the only casualties under the Communist regime. 

The actual victims of political repression are you, me, and everyone living and breathing under the iron heels of despots and dictators. And even though Vietnam always insists that it upholds and respects all of the human rights treaties it has entered into, in reality, all citizens are living in fear that one sentence or even one word may destroy our lives and the lives of those we love.

We are not free, and we will never be truly free if we still condone this type of government Vietnam has.

Human Trafficking

Toward Greener Pastures: A Reflection On Human Trafficking In Vietnam

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The 39 Vietnamese victims in the Essex Lorry Deaths. Photo: Essex Police/The Guardian

In October 2019, 39 people were found dead inside a sealed refrigeration trailer in Grays, Essex, in the United Kingdom. Initially thought to be Chinese, these people were, in fact, Vietnamese, mostly from Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces in the north-central region of Vietnam, who had left their families and their homeland for a minuscule chance at a better life. 

“They were treated worse than cattle,” DCI Daniel Stoten, the lead investigator, told The Guardian.  This tragic event is now commonly known as the Essex Lorry Deaths. 

In response to this tragedy, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who was the prime minister of Vietnam at that time, ordered an investigation into the incident. He ordered the Ministry of Public Security, the Foreign Ministry, and the two central provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh to investigate and find out cases of Vietnamese citizens being brought illegally to foreign countries and strictly handle the violations.

Yet, after almost two years, despite the sentencing and imprisonment of the people involved with the trafficking crimes and the investigations by Vietnam and other foreign governments, human trafficking in Vietnam continues to thrive.

Deutsche Welle, a media organization based in Germany, reports that the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases in the country is pushing more and more Vietnamese citizens to turn towards smuggling and human trafficking to make ends meet. Despite the country’s closed borders, people are still able to move in and out of the country through routes passing through neighboring Myanmar and China. 

Michael Brosowski, the co-founder of the Hanoi-based Blue Dragon Foundation, a charity organization that deals with child rescue and human trafficking, mentions in the article that most of the cases he’s been handling involve women and girls from ethnic minorities. He also adds that there have been reports of girls being forced to work in karaoke bars, which are likely fronts for brothels. 

Human trafficking is a messy, disturbing, and heartbreaking issue. Yet, the fact that it continues to this day and that some people willingly choose to engage in it, or are left with no other choice but to resort to it, only underscores the importance and necessity of open dialogue and addressing it in the public sphere. In the context of Vietnam, it is essential to reflect on why it continues to be so prevalent and on why it has remained cancer growing seemingly unchallenged in Vietnamese society.

Human Trafficking in Vietnam

The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.” They add that “men, women, and children of all ages and from all backgrounds can become victims of this crime” and that the people who operate such practices often use “violence, fraudulent employment agencies, or fake promises of education and job opportunities to trick and coerce their victims.” 

The U.S. Department of State’s global report on human trafficking provides several facts and statistics regarding the troubled state of this issue in Vietnam and lays out several recommendations that the country should take in order to better improve this situation. Likewise, our own Jason Nguyen, in his piece regarding human trafficking, summarizes many of the key points and features of this aforementioned report.

To put it simply, The U.S. Department of State classifies Vietnam under its Tier 2 watchlist; this means that the country has not met its minimum standards in terms of eliminating human trafficking but is at least trying to do so. Continued failure to act and a lack of concrete action may lead Vietnam to be reclassified as Tier 3; countries that fall under this bracket will be barred from getting any financial assistance from the United States. Vietnamese citizens will also face heightened immigration restrictions and the assets of Vietnamese officials in the United States will be frozen as well. 

Regarding the actions Vietnam is currently undertaking to address human trafficking, Nguyen writes that the country has ramped up prosecution against human traffickers and has passed legal revisions to terminate ludicrous brokerage fees; these fees, if too steep, cannot be realistically paid. In effect, workers end up indebted to their employers

With regards to specific legislation, Nguyen notes that Articles 150 and 151 of the Penal Code are specific anti-trafficking provisions that aim to dissuade would-be traffickers; both carry hefty prison sentences and associated fines. Yet, despite being called “sufficiently stringent” in the U.S. Department of State’s report, the implementation of these laws is not ideal. Despite having more charges filed against human traffickers, the number of investigations and convictions has actually decreased. Poor data collection, inadequate monitoring, and problematic evidence collection continue to hinder Vietnam’s fight against human trafficking, despite the government providing personnel and state forces anti-trafficking training. 

The U.S. Department of State report also alleges that some Vietnamese government officials, at the commune and village levels, were complicit in the practice of trafficking itself. They allegedly accepted bribes from traffickers, overlooked trafficking indicators, and even demanded large sums of money from the victims prior to reuniting them with their families. 

As for the victims and perpetrators of human trafficking themselves, Nguyen writes that “over 60 percent of victims come from ethnic minority groups” and that both traffickers and their victims “share poor economic and educational backgrounds.” He also notes that most traffickers are also illiterate and have not finished high school. 

The Borgen Project, a non-profit organization that aims to make fighting poverty part and parcel of the U.S foreign policy, also notes several facts that highlight the plight of Vietnamese human trafficking victims; men, women, and children are all fair game in this industry and their servitude ranges from forced labor in various physically intensive industries, such as manufacturing or agriculture, to prostitution and sex work in brothels.

Addressing the Issue

The U.S. Department of State’s global report does an exceptional job in presenting the current state of human trafficking in Vietnam. Likewise, it also provides several suggestions and recommendations that the country should prioritize to improve the situation as soon as possible. Nguyen condenses these as follows:

  1. Bolstering collaboration with NGOs and civil society;
  2. Amending existing loopholes;
  3. Training law enforcement officials in domestic trafficking cases;
  4. Implementing policies;
  5. Increasing national funding for provincial-level authorities to assist victims of trafficking; and
  6. Inviting independent bodies to verify that the government has terminated forced labor in rehabilitation centers.

These suggestions are all well and good but they mostly seem to deal with the effects and the aftermath of human trafficking itself; even preventative measures such as information campaigns and policy formation skirt the root of the problem. They fail to get to the heart of the issue and sadly this almost guarantees that human trafficking in Vietnam will continue to exist and grow.

How then should we approach Vietnam’s human trafficking problem?

As mentioned earlier, the victims and perpetrators of human trafficking in the country do not come from privilege nor wealth. They are not from the upper or middle classes of society, nor have they completed their formal education; some cannot even read. They come from ethnic minorities and face daily challenges that would seem alien to those blessed with the sanctity of comfort. They constantly live in extreme poverty, and due to their actual and perceived lack of choice, are forced to latch onto any opportunity that comes their way just to be able to bring home food for themselves and for their families. Necessity and despair force both traffickers and their victims to do what they think they need to do, even if it means resorting to illegal and dehumanizing means. 

The hopeless deceive the hopeless with promises of greener pastures and a better life while concealing the risks, dangers, and reality.

Inequality, poverty, and social disparity are at the center of this issue and if Vietnam desires long-lasting permanent change regarding human trafficking, these need to be rightfully addressed and resolved. 

Granted, non-governmental organizations and volunteer groups, such as the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, exist and are already doing their part to help alleviate this situation. However, they lack the funds, manpower, and machinery to continuously push forward to bring about definite progress; only the Vietnamese government has an abundance of all three. And yet, the government seems content with keeping the status quo and staying at Tier 2. 

Hence, unless some form of change occurs within the government, or the human trafficking trade suddenly becomes less lucrative for those corrupt and morally bankrupt officials involved in it, more Vietnamese people face the risk of suffocating to death in a cramped enclosed space, thousands of miles away from their homes and loved ones.

Bibliography:

  1. BBC News. (2021, January 22). Essex lorry deaths: Men jailed for killing 39 migrants in trailer. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-essex-55765213.
  2. Gentleman, A. (2020, December 21). Essex lorry deaths: two found guilty over manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese people. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/dec/21/essex-lorry-trial-two-found-guilty-over-deaths-of-39-vietnamese-people.
  3. Thuy, H. (2019, October 27). PM orders investigation into overseas trafficking of Vietnamese citizens – VnExpress International. VnExpress International – Latest news, business, travel, and analysis from Vietnam. https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/pm-orders-investigation-into-overseas-trafficking-of-vietnamese-citizens-4002921.html.
  4. Bohane, H. (2021, June 11). Vietnam: Human trafficking on the rise amid COVID: DW: 11.06.2021. DW Made for Minds. https://www.dw.com/en/vietnam-human-trafficking-on-the-rise-amid-covid/a-57853994
  5. The United Nations: Office on Drugs and Crime. (n.d.). Human-Trafficking. United Nations : Office on Drugs and Crime. https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/human-trafficking.html.
  6. Office To Monitor And Combat Trafficking In Persons. (2021, July 1). 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report: Vietnam. United States Department of State. https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-trafficking-in-persons-report/vietnam/
  7. Nguyen, J. (2021, July 17). Q&A: What You Should Know About The Human Trafficking Situation In Vietnam. The Vietnamese. https://www.thevietnamese.org/2021/07/qa-what-you-should-know-about-the-human-trafficking-situation-in-vietnam/.
  8. Minh, H. L. (2020, January 18). 10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Vietnam. The Borgen Project. https://borgenproject.org/10-facts-about-human-trafficking-in-vietnam/. 

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Human Trafficking

Q&A: What You Should Know About The Human Trafficking Situation In Vietnam

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Photo credit: VnExpress/Nguyen Phuoc Vu (background photo), U.S. Department of State (screenshot photo). Graphic: The Vietnamese Magazine.

On July 1, 2021, the U.S. Department of State released its annual global report on human trafficking. The 2021 Trafficking in Persons report ranked Vietnam as a “Tier 2 Watch List” [1] for the third consecutive year.

According to the placement guiding [2], governments that fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking are placed on “Tier 1.” In contrast, countries that fail to meet minimum standards but make a significant effort to comply are ranked as “Tier 2.” 

However, these Tier 2 countries also risk being placed on a “Tier 3 Watch List” if they do not take “concrete actions” to combat the increasing number of human trafficking victims or if they fail “to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year.” 

Without a further genuine effort to improve the current situation, Vietnam could be downgraded to “Tier 3,” which might lead [3] to restrictions on financial assistance from the United States, the freezing of officials’ assets, and restrictions on immigration.

Human trafficking map, East Asia & Pacific region. Source: U.S. Department of State.

What is Vietnam’s current situation?

In Vietnam’s case, the State Department declares that the Vietnamese government “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.”

The report acknowledges considerable efforts taken by Vietnam to eliminate human trafficking, including ramping up prosecutions against human traffickers, passing legal revisions to terminate hefty brokerage fees. Brokerage fees will make workers fall victim to debt bondage, and later they would be susceptible to forced labor. 

It also notices that Vietnam has enhanced worker protections, strengthened law enforcement, increased financial budgets to assist victims of trafficking, provided protection services for identified victims, and implemented extensive awareness programs in vulnerable ethnic communities.

Nevertheless, the country has not demonstrated sufficient effort regarding its anti-trafficking protocols, given the impact of Covid-19 on the overall capacity to combat illegal human trading activities, compared to the previous period. Furthermore, the report states that Vietnam has also fallen short on systematically identifying victims of trafficking, which results in “some victims [being] penalized for unlawful acts [that] traffickers [compel] them to commit.”

Who are the primary victims and offenders of trafficking activities?

The Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, a non-profit charity that rescues and helps the victims of human trafficking in Vietnam, stated in a study [4] that over 60 percent of victims and traffickers come from ethnic minority groups, such as Hmong or Thai. Some of Vietnam’s northern border provinces, in which diverse groups of ethnic people dominate, witness the highest rates of illegal trafficking and border crossings.

According to the charity’s latest analysis [5], between 2012 and 2020, Hmong people accounted for over 32 percent of the total victims and 33 percent of the total traffickers, while only making up 1.4 percent of the country’s population.

Also, the traffickers, as well as their victims, share poor economic and educational backgrounds. Most of the prosecuted traffickers, around 80 percent, are illiterate or did not finish high school.

The lack of general knowledge about laws and human rights, coupled with grinding poverty, proves to be the main reason these people take up [6] trafficking or recruitment to generate extra income and “escaping” poverty.

At the same time, people between 19 to 25 years old are the most vulnerable to these illicit activities, while children under 16 account for 42 percent of the total number of trafficked victims. Based on gender, all of the 199 trafficked victims recorded by Blue Dragon were females. Meanwhile, male traffickers comprise nearly 60 percent of total prosecuted offenders.

In a majority of cases, the traffickers have close relationships with the victims. They could be their friends, family members, relatives, neighbors, or acquaintances.

Source: Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. Graphic by South China Morning Post.

What are the common forms of trafficking?

Following the data compiled by the Blue Dragon Foundation, forced marriage and domestic servitude accounted for the majority of all prosecuted cases. The victims, mostly women, are often lured and misled by false promises of well-paid job opportunities in foreign countries, but they are eventually forced into marriage with Chinese men.

Other forms of human trafficking, which include [7] forced labor and commercial sex, are also ubiquitous.

Vietnamese workers, especially under labor export programs, are subject to forced labor when they cannot pay off their debts to their recruitment company. Meanwhile, some Vietnamese female workers travel to other Asian countries for brokered jobs [8] as hostesses in massage parlors, karaoke bars, or restaurants.

What are Vietnam’s prosecution laws against trafficking?

Overall, the Vietnamese government has displayed visible efforts in reinforcing its existing legal framework against human trafficking. The current anti-trafficking legislation [9] of Vietnam includes:

  • Article 150 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes labor trafficking and sex trafficking of adults. Offenders face up to 10 years of imprisonment and up to 100 million dong (US$4,330) in fines.
  • Article 151 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes labor trafficking and sex trafficking of children under 16. Offenders face up to 12 years of imprisonment and up to 200 million dong fines.

Despite being regarded as “sufficiently stringent” in the State Department’s report, current prosecution laws against trafficking in Vietnam still contain certain loopholes.

For example, the application of Article 150 to cases involving children between the ages of 16 and 17 remains ambiguous, leading them to be treated as adults. Therefore, the article does not fully constitute all forms of child trafficking.

Other notable shortcomings include the lack of law enforcement regarding domestic trafficking and forced labor, especially with male victims, and the insufficient training of law enforcement officers in handling such cases. These are some limitations that could hinder the country’s progress towards eliminating labor exploitation and the illegal activities of human trafficking.

What improvements could be made by Vietnam?

The State Department’s report proposed prioritized recommendations that the Vietnamese government could implement to improve the situation. 

These recommendations focus on:

  1. Bolstering collaboration with NGOs and civil society;
  2. Amending existing loopholes;
  3. Training law enforcement officials in domestic trafficking cases;
  4. Implementing policies;
  5. Increasing national funding for provincial-level authorities to assist victims of trafficking; and
  6. Inviting independent bodies to verify the government has terminated forced labor in rehabilitation centers.

Bibliography:

  1. Office To Monitor And Combat Trafficking In Persons. (2021, July 1). 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report: Vietnam. United States Department of State. https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-trafficking-in-persons-report/vietnam/
  2. Office To Monitor And Combat Trafficking In Persons. (2021a, July 1). 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report. United States Department of State. https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-trafficking-in-persons-report/
  3. Nguyen Dinh Thang. (2021, July 4). Buôn người: Việt Nam ở sát bờ vực chế tài theo luật Hoa Kỳ. Mach Song Media. https://machsongmedia.org/vietnam/chong-buon-nguoi/1727-buon-nguoi-viet-nam-o-sat-bo-vuc-che-tai-theo-luat-hoa-ky.html
  4. Sen, N. (2021, July 8). Young members of ethnic minority groups most at risk in Vietnam-China human trafficking trade: report. SCMP. https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3140227/young-members-ethnic-minority-groups-most-risk-vietnam-china
  5. Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. (2021, July). Human Trafficking & Traffickers in Vietnam. Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. https://www.bluedragon.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Profile-of-trafficking-in-Vietnam.pdf
  6. Ibid., [4]
  7. Ibid., [1]
  8. RFA. (2021b, July 1). Việt Nam tiếp tục nằm trong danh sách cần phải theo dõi về tình trạng buôn người trong báo cáo của Bộ Ngoại giao Mỹ. Đài Á Châu Tự Do. https://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/news/vietnamnews/human-trafficking-report-vn-stay-in-watch-list-tier-2-07012021203901.html
  9. Ibid., [1]

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Death Penalty

A Spark Of Hope For Ho Duy Hai’s Family As New Alibi Emerges

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Photo credit (background): Canva. Photo credit (from left to right): Ho Duy Hai’s family, Nguyen Lan Thang. Graphic design: The Vietnamese Magazine

On June 24, 2021, Attorney Tran Hong Phong, the lawyer for Ho Duy Hai and his family in their petition for his wrongful death penalty case, published a letter on his Facebook account, providing a new alibi regarding the case. Five lawyers (including Phong), two journalists working for a law newspaper, and Ho Duy Hai’s family jointly signed the letter.

The letter, which had been previously sent to the Procurator of Supreme People’s Procuracy of Vietnam and the Vietnamese authorities, provides convincing proof [1] to demonstrate that Ho Duy Hai was not the murderer of two post office workers in Long An Province in 2008.

Alternatively, the new evidence shows that on the evening of January 13, 2008, Ho Duy Hai actually did not go to Cau Voi Post Office, where the murder took place, but rather attended the funeral of Ho Chi, also known as Tu Lan, a neighbor who lived just 500 meters from Hai’s house.

Furthermore, the new evidence also shows that Ho Duy Hai was at the funeral from 7:50 pm until 9 pm, which coincides with the time the Long An Police investigative agency alleged he had entered the Cau Voi Post Office, at around 7:30 pm, to murder the two victims at around 8:30 pm allegedly. Seven witnesses, who also attended the funeral, including the deceased’s wife, have confirmed this fact.[2]

Ho Duy Hai received a death penalty for his convictions of homicide and robbery, despite “serious procedural shortcomings”[3] and violations of the defendant’s right to a fair trial. 

This controversial and invalid case has set his family and their attorney on a decade-long journey [4] of calling for the suspension of his execution. They finally reached a cassation trial [5] in 2020, but Ho Duy Hai was once again declared guilty of the crimes and sentenced to death.[6]

Although the presumption of innocence has been recognized [7] in its 2015 Criminal Procedures Code, Vietnam has fallen short of actually practicing this principle in its criminal proceedings. Quite commonly, the number of cases and the speed at which a case must be solved dwarf the importance of proper due process to uphold a fair and just trial. 

A local lawyer explained [8] that investigative agencies could deploy “professional” methods to extract forced confessions from people since these agencies “often hold prejudices” against the accused. Also, earlier this month, the People’s Court of Dak Song District, in Dak Nong Province, held [9] nearly 60 “pretend” trials, to meet its quota for a local judge to be reappointed, without any real defendants or victims.

However, the new evidence provided by his attorney might prove that Ho Duy Hai was wrongfully convicted, which would be a spark of hope for both the defendant and his family as the possibility of retrial could be high.

To strengthen the validity of the new proof, Attorney Phong confirmed that all seven witnesses “voluntarily provided the information and confirmation letters to affirm that their testimonies are true and vowed to take full responsibility under the law […].” 

In their letter, the attorney and the signees demanded Vietnamese government officials expeditiously verify the evidence, review the cassation decision, release defendant Ho Duy Hai on bail while awaiting verification; and review and resolve their previous petitions and demands.

The case of Ho Duy Hai has drawn wide attention from both national and international audiences, as he was convicted of murder and later sentenced to death via an opaque and unfair trial.

Bibliography:

[1] RFA. (2021, June 25). Vụ án Hồ Duy Hải: Luật sư cung cấp bằng chứng ngoại phạm mới. Đài Á Châu Tự Do. https://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/news/vietnamnews/ho-duy-hai-case-lawyer-provides-new-proof-06252021081856.html

[2] HCMC Reporters. (2021, June 25). Vụ án tử tù Hồ Duy Hải: Luật sư cung cấp tình tiết bất ngờ. Dân Việt. https://danviet.vn/vu-an-tu-tu-ho-duy-hai-luat-su-cung-cap-tinh-tiet-bat-ngo-2021062515064789.htm

[3] Will, N. (2019, December 3). After Decade of Petitions, Vietnam to Re-consider Case of Death Row Inmate Ho Duy Hai. The Vietnamese Magazine. https://www.thevietnamese.org/2019/12/after-decade-of-petitions/

[4] Vi, T. Q. (2019, September 29). Wrongful Death Penalty Cases And The Families That The Inmates Left Behind. The Vietnamese Magazine. https://www.thevietnamese.org/2019/09/wrongful-death-penalty-cases-and-the-families-that-the-inmates-left-behind/

[5] Thereporter. (2020a, May 7). Ho Duy Hai’s Cassation Trial. The Vietnamese Magazine. https://www.thevietnamese.org/2020/05/ho-duy-hais-cassation-trial/

[6] Thereporter. (2020b, May 9). Ho Duy Hai’s Case Reaffirmed, Sentenced to Death Again. The Vietnamese Magazine. https://www.thevietnamese.org/2020/05/ho-duy-hais-case-reaffirmed-sentenced-to-death-again/

[7] V.L.L.F. (2018, June 1). Legal experts discuss presumption of innocence, due process principles in criminal proceedings. Vietnam Law and Legal Forum. https://vietnamlawmagazine.vn/legal-experts-discuss-presumption-of-innocence-due-process-principles-in-criminal-proceedings-6244.html

[8] Thi, D. (2021, June 25). Liệu có tái thẩm vụ án Hồ Duy Hải với chứng cứ ngoại phạm mới? Đài Á Châu Tự Do. https://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/will-the-ho-duy-hai-case-be-retrial-with-new-alibi-dt-06252021114054.html

[9] Duong, D. (2021, June 6). Tòa huyện lập gần 60 vụ án “ảo” để. . . một thẩm phán được bổ nhiệm lại? Dan Tri. https://dantri.com.vn/xa-hoi/toa-huyen-lap-gan-60-vu-an-ao-de-mot-tham-phan-duoc-bo-nhiem-lai-20210606162322706.htm

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