On October 29, 2021, several UN human rights experts called on the Vietnamese government to immediately and unconditionally release detained writer and human rights defender Pham Doan Trang.
Doan Trang, who is currently imprisoned in Hanoi Temporary Detention Centre No. 1, was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on October 7, 2020. Her indictment was formally announced to the public on October 18, 2021, more than a year after her initial arrest. She currently faces up to 12 years in jail 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.” Although her trial was initially scheduled for November 4, 2021, it has since been postponed indefinitely.
This team of international human rights experts is part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Their statement stated that Pham Doan Trang is the latest victim of the Vietnamese government’s misapplication of Article 88 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code. This penal code is often used to “persecute writers, journalists, and human rights defenders, [by] criminalising the exercise of their right to freedom of opinion and expression to share information.”
Likewise, they also argue that “the arrest and detention of an individual exercising their right to freedom of expression to report on human rights issues is an arbitrary deprivation of liberty under international human rights law.”
They also expressed alarm that the prosecution in Vietnam used a report on the 2016 Formosa marine environmental disaster, a report on Vietnam’s 2016 law on religion, and another report on human rights issues in Vietnam, together with Pham Doan Trang’s interviews with foreign media outlets as evidence in her trial. The experts further statedthat charges, such as the ones being lobbied against Trang, “are likely to coerce individuals into submission and silence, and preclude them from speaking out on such topics.”
The complete statement can be found on the official website of the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner here.