On January 1, 2022, a group of 86 individuals and civil society organizations in Vietnam and overseas introduced a petition to call for the abolition and/or amendment of three controversial articles in Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code.
The 117 Petition, named after Article 117 in the country’s penal code which criminalizes “anti-State activities,” was concurrently forwarded to Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Chairman of the National Assembly Vuong Dinh Hue, and all the delegates of the country’s National Assembly.
What are the aforementioned articles?
The three articles mentioned in the petition include:
- Article 109 which criminalizes “activities aimed to overthrow the people’s government,”
- Article 117 which forbids “distributing propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,”
- And Article 331. The petition regards this provision as the “most bizarre” for criminalizing anyone who “abuses the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of faith and religion, freedom of meeting, association and other freedom of democracy that violate the interests of the State, rights, legal interests of organizations and individuals.”
Vietnamese political dissidents convicted under these legislations include journalist Pham Doan Trang, land rights activists Trinh Ba Phuong, Trinh Ba Tu, Can Thi Theu, and Nguyen Thi Tam, and the recently convicted political candidate Le Trong Hung.
What does the petition say?
In their letter, the petitioners state that these vague and broadly defined laws effectively limit Vietnamese citizens’ access to the basic human rights guaranteed in the country’s Constitution. Furthermore, these laws are also allegedly not compliant with Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), in which Vietnam has been a signatory since 1982.
The final request
In the petition’s conclusion, the petitioners request that “all political prisoners be immediately released.” Likewise, they strongly urge the Vietnamese government to fulfill its international obligations and governing duties by enacting the following:
- The abolishment of Articles 117, 331 in the 2015 Penal Code,
- And the abolishment of Article 109 of the 2015 Penal Code or its modification to eliminate abuse by misinterpretation.