Paris, 21 May 2015: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon must press the Vietnamese government to address serious human rights violations during his upcoming visit to the country, FIDH and its member organization Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said today. Ban Ki-moon will visit Vietnam from 22-23 May at the invitation of President Truong Tan Sang.
“The Secretary-General must use the UN’s moral authority to demand that Hanoi urgently address serious human rights violations and release all political prisoners,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.
FIDH and VCHR are particularly concerned over increased police brutality and acts of harassment and intimidation against civil society activists, bloggers, and human rights defenders.
In recent months, plainclothes police and hired thugs have repeatedly attacked activists on the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. On 19 May, plainclothes police beat blogger Dinh Quang Tuyen in Ho Chi Min City after he denounced similar brutality against activists Nguyen Chi Tuyen (Anh Chi), Tran Thi Nga, Trinh Anh Tuan, Truong Minh Duc and others on his Facebook page. On 11 May, Anh Chi was attacked with metal pipes by unknown individuals near his home in Hanoi. He was involved in a successful campaign against a tree-cutting plan in Vietnam’s capital.
Authorities have also continued to harass bloggers and activists. On 18 May, authorities at Ho Chi Minh City International Airport prevented prominent intellectual Nguyen Hue Chi from travelling to the US to visit his wife and daughter by confiscating his passport. Nguyen Hue Chi is one of the founders of “Bauxite.VN”, an influential dissident website that criticizes government policies. On the same day, authorities at Hanoi International Airport briefly detained blogger Mai Xuan Dung shortly after his return from Singapore, where he had attended a workshop on citizen journalism.
Many activists remain detained under vaguely-worded ‘national security’ provisions in the Criminal Code, such as Article 88 (‘disseminating propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’) and Article 258 (‘abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State’), and are subjected to harsh prison conditions. Nguyen Kim Ngan, 66, who is serving a five and a half year prison sentence in Thanh Chuong Prison Camp No. 6 in Nghe An Province, has been denied the right to receive visits from his wife since September 2013. Activist Pham Minh Vu, sentenced in February 2015 to 18 months in prison for taking photos of anti-China protests, is detained along with common criminals in Xuan Loc Camp, Dong Nai Province, where he has suffered repeated beatings.
Freedom of religion is seriously threatened by a new draft Law on Belief and Religion that imposes even harsher controls on religious communities and their activities than current legislation. Activities conducted by independent religious groups not recognized by the government are outlawed under provisions that strictly prohibit anything deemed to “affront the religious beliefs of members of religious organizations recognized by the State.” The 4th draft of the law has sparked deep discontent among many religious communities.
“Instead of protecting freedom of religion or belief, this proposed law would put a muzzle on independent religious groups, in gross violation of Vietnam’s obligations under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai.
Religious repression against independent religious communities continues unabated. Since 2003, Patriarch Thich Quang Do, leader of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), has been under house arrest without charges at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City. He has spent more than three decades under various forms of detention. Dozens of Catholics, Protestants, Hmong Christians, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, and Khmer Krom Buddhists remain imprisoned solely because of their peaceful religious beliefs.
FIDH and VCHR call on the UN Secretary-General to demand the immediate and unconditional release all political prisoners in Vietnam, the repeal of legislation that runs counter to the country’s obligations under international law, and an end to ongoing restrictions on freedom of religion and belief.
FIDH: Andrea Giorgetta (English) – Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok)
FIDH: Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) – Tel: +33672284294 (Paris)
VCHR: Penelope Faulkner (French, English, Vietnamese – Tel: +3345983085 (Paris)