OCT 26 2021– Legal Initiatives for Vietnam (LIV), alongside 27 other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) released a joint statement calling for the immediate release of independent journalist and human rights advocate, Pham Doan Trang. Trang, one of the “best-known independent writers in Vietnamese civil society” who is also “recognized internationally for her human rights advocacy,” was arrested at her home in Ho Chi Minh City on October 7, 2020. She is currently being charged under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code which criminalizes ‘making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents, and items against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.’
The statement comes ahead of Trang’s upcoming trial which is scheduled to take place on November 4, 2021. However, information about her trial was only made public on October 18, 2021, more than a year after her arrest.
The joint statement claims that Pham Doan Trang’s persecution is due to her “long-standing work as an independent journalist, book publisher, and human rights defender, known for writing about topics ranging from environmental rights to police violence, as well as for her advocacy for press freedom.”
Since her arrest, she has also been held incommunicado and has been denied contact with her family and her lawyers, only being allowed to get in touch with them on October 19, 2021, a day after the public announcement of her trial. Trang’s lawyer also notes that his client’s legs, which were broken in the past by the police in 2015, were in greater pain due to Trang being denied adequate medical care during her detention; she has also lost a lot of weight and has not been allowed to see any doctors to treat her other pre-existing medical conditions.
In light of this information, LIV and its allies unanimously call for the Vietnamese government to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against Pham Doan Trang and all other human rights defenders currently imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights and fundamental freedoms;
- Pending her immediate and unconditional release, guarantee humane treatment and conditions, and ensure prompt access to medical attention;
- Guarantee Doan Trang unrestricted access to and regular communication with her family and confidential access to legal assistance of her choosing;
- Ensure that her chosen lawyers are promptly provided with timely access to all relevant legal documentation and granted unrestricted communication and access in confidentiality with Doan Trang and adequate time and facilities to prepare for her defense;
- Ensure the trial is open to the public, including diplomatic and human rights civil society observers and the media, and refrain from any arbitrary restriction on travel or interference of trial observers, media, and civil society preceding and during the trial;
- Repeal or substantially amend the Penal Code and other non-human rights compliant legislation, used to harass and imprison individuals—including independent journalists and human rights defenders—for the exercise of their fundamental rights, and bring them in conformity with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Vietnam has been a State Party since 1982, and other applicable international law and standards.
The full English text for the joint statement can be found here.
The Vietnamese language version can be found here.