August 27, 2012
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Office of the State
1 Bach Thao
Re: Request for the immediate release of 17 Vietnamese social activists and bloggers and the withdrawal of all charges
Dear Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung,
As you receive this letter, seventeen Vietnamese social activists, including bloggers and citizen journalists have been in jail for up to a year. Most have not even been brought to trial. These seventeen individuals have been arbitrarily detained because of their work as citizen journalists, environmental advocates, anti-corruption crusaders and human rights defenders.
Over the last year, the international human rights community has gotten to know their names: Dang Xuan Dieu, Ho Duc Hoa, Paulus Le Van Son, Nguyen Van Duyet, Nong Hung Anh, Nguyen Van Oai, Chu Manh Son, Dau Van Duong, Tran Huu Duc, Nguyen Xuan Anh, Ho Van Oanh, Thai Van Dung, Tran Minh Nhat, Ta Phong Tan, Tran Vu Anh Binh, Nguyen Dinh Cuong, and Hoang Phong.
These individuals have simply sought to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association guaranteed under international law. What they have in common is a passion for social justice, religious freedom, and involvement in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.
Unfortunately, they have been detained pursuant to vague, ill-defined statutes under the Vietnamese penal code: Article 79, which effectively restricts freedom of association and Article 88, which essentially limits freedom of speech. The recent petition filed by Stanford Law School’s Allen Weiner to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention argued very well that their continued detention violates international law.
On March 12, 2012 nine international NGOs (ACAT France, Access, ARTICLE 19, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Front Line Defenders, Index On Censorship, Media Defence South East Asia, Media Legal Defence Initiative, Southeast Asian Press Alliance) sent you a letter which called for their immediate release and access to legal counsel. Since then, their situation has not improved but rather worsened: Four of these activists have been unjustly sentenced to prison terms and the remainder are being held without access to a lawyer. Blogger Paulus Le Son was transferred to Hoa Lo jail in Hanoi which is known for its harsh prison conditions. Another citizen journalist, Dang Xuan Dieu, has not been allowed a single family visitation over the last year.
We respectfully remind you of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s obligations under international law to protect the rights of its citizens when it ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
These rights are also protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is a matter customary international law. Therefore, freedom of association, freedom of speech and the right to a fair trial are basic rights which should be protected under Vietnam’s legal system and not unjustifiably curtailed.
We believe Vietnam as a country would benefit from greater respect for the civil liberties of its citizens and Vietnamese society would be richer with the contributions of all its citizens. We urgently call on your government to withdraw all the charges against those who are held pending trial and for those who have been sentenced to be unconditionally exonerated.
Christine Laroque, Asia Programs Manager, ACAT France
Brett Solomon, Executive Director, Access Now
Nguyen Ngoc, Associated Vietnamese Writers in Exile Centre
Jillian York, Director for International Freedom of Expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Kamila Shamsie, Writers at Risk Committee Co-Chair, English PEN
Mary Lawlor, Director, Front Line Defenders
Phil Robertson, Deputy Director, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch
Rohan Jayasekera, Deputy CEO, Index on Censorship
H.R. Dipendra, Executive Director, Media Defence – Southeast Asia
Peter Noorlander, Executive Director, Media Legal Defence Initiative
Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Executive Director, Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Nguyen Le Nhan Quyen, Vietnamese League for Human Rights
ASEAN Chair, the Kingdom of Cambodia
Attn.: H.E. Samdech Hun Sen
Australian Embassy, Hanoi
Attn.: HE Mr. Hugh Borrowman
British Embassy, Hanoi
Attn.: Dr Antony Stokes
Embassy of Canada, Hanoi
Attn.: Her Excellency Deborah Chatsis
Embassy of France, Hanoi
Attn.: H.E Jean-François Girault
Royal Norwegian Embassy, Hanoi
Attn.: H.E. Ståle Torstein Risa
Embassy of Switzerland, Hanoi
Attn.: H.E Andrej Motyl
Embassy of the United States, Hanoi
Attn.: Ambassador David Shear
General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union
Attn.: High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton
United States Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Attn.: Assistant Secretary Michael Posner