International Concerns Rise Over Vietnam's Human Rights Record as Government Marks One Year on Human Rights Council

International Concerns Rise Over Vietnam's Human Rights Record as Government Marks One Year on Human Rights Council

Prominent Activist Pham Doan Trang Marks Three Years in Detention, RSF Calls for Her Release

Pham Doan Trang, 45, a well-known dissident and journalist, has been imprisoned for three years and is serving a nine-year sentence on false “propagandizing against the State” charges. RSF has urged Vietnam's regime to release her.

Exactly three years ago, on October 6, 2020, Pham Doan Trang was arrested at her home in Ho Chi Minh City. After over a year in solitary confinement, Doan Trang,  was sentenced to nine years in prison in December 2021 on charges of spreading “propaganda against the State.”

Cédric Alvani, director of RSF's Asia-Pacific Bureau, stated, “Journalist Pham Doan Trang, who bravely risked her life to inform the public, deserves to be celebrated as a hero rather than oppressed by the Vietnamese ruling regime.” RSF calls on the international community to pressure Vietnam to release Pham Doan Trang and other imprisoned journalists and press freedom advocates.

A month before her arrest, Pham Doan Trang, co-founder of Luat Khoa Magazine and The Vietnamese Magazine and a recipient of RSF's Press Freedom Award in 2019, published a report on the Dong Tam massacre on the outskirts of Hanoi.

Since her arrest, she has been isolated from nearly all contact with her family and friends for over a year. In October 2022, after her trial and appellate hearing, she was moved to a prison approximately 1,000 miles away from her family's home in Hanoi, making it extremely difficult for her elderly mother to visit her. Pham Doan Trang is grappling with post-COVID-19 complications contracted in prison and chronic illnesses such as sinusitis, arthritis, and gynecological problems.

RSF reports that imprisoned journalists in Vietnam are largely subjected to systematic mistreatment and a lack of medical care.

Vietnam ranked 178 out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2023 Press Freedom Index and is among the top countries in the world for imprisoning journalists.

Human Rights Watch Urges UN Scrutiny of Vietnam's Crackdown Ahead of Universal Periodic Review

Human Rights Watch has called for close scrutiny of Vietnam's escalating crackdown on activists and its failure to reform oppressive laws in an official submission to the United Nations. Vietnam is set to undergo its fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council in 2024.

Elaine Pearson, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, highlighted the deterioration in Vietnam's human rights record since its last UPR appearance in January 2019. Pearson emphasized that Vietnam's continued violations underscore the government's disregard for human rights despite promises made to the European Union and other governments. Pearson urged international donors and trade partners to recognize the strategic importance of promoting rights in Vietnam.

In its submission, Human Rights Watch listed several key human rights issues that Vietnam must urgently address, including prosecution for exercising free expression, freedom of association, and peaceful assembly. The organization emphasized violations of due process and fair trial rights in cases involving criminal suspects, political dissidents, and ongoing repression of freedom of religion and belief.

Human Rights Watch pointed out that Vietnam has extended its repression to encompass mainstream activists focusing on environmental and climate change issues. The organization highlighted the use of dubious tax evasion charges to prosecute environmental campaigners and other recent arrests related to alleged document appropriation.

During Vietnam's third UPR cycle in 2019, the government rejected recommendations to amend rights-violating "national security" articles in the penal code. Human Rights Watch highlighted the unjust prosecution of individuals under these legal provisions and the continued disregard for due process and fair trial rights.

The organization also raised concerns about Vietnam's failure to fulfill pledges made during the 2019 UPR regarding amendments to the criminal procedure code and mobile outdoor trials. Despite accepting recommendations to safeguard freedom of religion and belief, Vietnam has not implemented these accepted suggestions and has subjected followers of independent religious groups to various forms of abuse.

Human Rights Watch emphasized the necessity for real changes, including releasing political prisoners and reforming rights-abusing laws, urging UN member countries not to wait until the next UPR session to press Vietnam for fundamental rights reforms.

CIVICUS Condemns Vietnam on Its Continued Criminalization and Abuse of Human Rights Activists

Vietnam's civic space remains “closed,” according to the CIVICUS Monitor, highlighting ongoing concerns about systematic efforts to suppress human rights defenders, journalists, and bloggers. This suppression involves imprisonment under national security laws, limitations on freedom of movement, and instances of torture and ill-treatment during detention. The media faces stringent controls, online censorship, restrictions on social media, and enduring limitations on peaceful protests.

Approaching one year since Vietnam's election to the UN Human Rights Council, where commitments were made to “enhance the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” civic freedoms remain grim. Authorities utilize various laws to target activists, further aggravating the situation.

In recent months, the government has persisted in criminalizing and imprisoning human rights defenders, including environmental and minority rights activists and academics. Political prisoners continue to endure ill-treatment in detention. Bloggers and online activists are continually targeted, while proposals for heightened restrictions and controls in the online sphere loom on the horizon.

Vietnamese Activist Nguyen Viet Dung Recounts Kidnapping and Torture Ordeal Following His Release from Prison

Recently released after a six-year prison term, Nguyen Viet Dung revealed his experience of being kidnapped, tortured, and forced to confess while detained under charges of spreading “anti-state propaganda” (Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code).

Dung, 37, was arrested on Sept. 27, 2017, and subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison with five years of probation. The sentence was reduced to six years in prison during the Aug. 15, 2018 appeal hearing.

He was charged with sharing articles on his Facebook page that allegedly contained propaganda that distorted the party's policies and guidelines and defamed leaders. Additionally, he was accused of displaying flags associated with the former Republic of Vietnam at his residence and in public areas and sharing images and videos on social media.

Following his release from Nam Ha Detention Center, Dung disclosed to Radio Free Asia (RFA) Vietnamese that the police had violated his civil rights throughout his arrest and trial, involving kidnapping, torture, and forced confessions. He described being beaten and kidnapped on multiple occasions by police from both Ho Chi Minh City and Nghe An Province.

Dung revealed the circumstances of his detention, highlighting the severity of his experiences during the first stage of temporary detention. He expressed a willingness to provide further testimony on the torture he endured.

Despite the abuse and coercion, Dung did not disclose the details of the torture during his trial and appellate hearing, fearing for his life upon release.

Concerns for the Well-being of Vietnamese Prisoner of Conscience Tran Huynh Duy Thuc

The family of Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, a prisoner of conscience serving a 16-year sentence for “activities aimed at overthrowing the government,” has expressed worry about his safety in Prison No. 6, Thanh Chuong District, Nghe An Province.

During a recent visit, Thuc's brother, Tran Huynh Duy Tan, reported a decline in Thuc's health and a tense and dangerous atmosphere within the prison camp. Thuc revealed that he and other political prisoners had not received camp rations since Sept. 14 and have faced harsher treatment by the prison.

Tan explained that Thuc was denied canteen food and was compelled to rely on other inmates to purchase basic items. Necessary personal belongings were also confiscated without reason, and he was denied access to hot water. Thuc mentioned his intent to go on a hunger strike if conditions did not improve.

Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, a successful businessman, was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 16 years in prison on charges of anti-state activities. He is currently contemplating filing a complaint regarding his harsh treatment in Prison No. 6.

UN Urgent Appeal Raises Concerns Over Imminent Execution of Nguyen Van Chuong in Vietnam

The Joint Urgent Appeal VNM 7.2023, issued by the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council to the Government of Vietnam on August 10, 2023, has been made public today, Oct. 9, 2023. The appeal expresses concerns about the potential imminent execution of Nguyen Van Chuong, 40, who has been sentenced to death. This is in light of credible allegations of torture and a violation of the right to a fair trial. As of now, there has been no response from the Government of Vietnam regarding this appeal.

The UN Human Rights Office had previously released a press briefing note on the case of Chuong on August 11, 2023, highlighting the imminent execution in Vietnam.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Vietnam’s Arrest of Environmentalists Draws Fire Amid Surge of Funding for Green Transition

VOA News/ Oct.8

“Police arrested Ngo Thi To Nhien, the executive director of the Vietnam Initiative for Energy Transition Social Enterprise, a Hanoi-based think tank focused on energy transition, in Hanoi on Sept. 20.

She was the sixth environmentalist detained in the past two years and had been involved – with the U.N. Development Program’s Vietnam office – in implementing a 2022 deal between Vietnam and the G7 countries, EU, Norway and Denmark aimed at shifting Vietnam to cleaner energy sources.

The Just Energy Transition Partnership, or JETP, agreement came after Vietnam committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the 2021 U.N. Climate Change Conference.

According to the JETP deal, $15.5 billion in the form of grants, loans, and investment from the public and private sector will go to support Vietnam's transition to green energy sources.

In April, the 88 Project, a U.S.-based nonprofit focused on human rights in Vietnam, released a report on four leading anti-coal campaigners – Dang Dinh Bach, Nguy Thi Khanh, Mai Phan Loi, and Bach Hung Duong – imprisoned for tax evasion since 2021. The report outlines the results of an investigation into the arrests and details closed-door hearings and shows purported flaws in the prosecution, and argues that the tax evasion charge appears to be politically motivated.

Since the report's release, Hoang Thi Minh Hong, former director of environmental advocacy nonprofit CHANGE, has also been jailed for tax evasion.”

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