4 January 2013

Viet Nam: Arbitrary detention of Mr. Le Quoc Quan

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Viet Nam.

VNM 001 / 0113 / OBS 001
Incommunicado detention / Judicial harassment


Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) about the arbitrary detention of Mr. Le Quoc Quan, a human rights lawyer and blogger.

According to the information received, on December 27, 2012, Mr. Le Quoc Quan was arrested by the police in Hanoi while dropping off his daughter at school. The police also searched his office and home and confiscated some documents. They apparently read out a warrant, but did not give it to Mr. Le Quoc Quan’s family. The police told his family that he would be charged under Article 161 of the Criminal Code, which relates to tax evasion. If condemned, he risks three years in prison and a heavy fine.

Mr. Le Quoc Quan, who began a hunger strike on December 28, is currently detained incommunicado in Hoa Lo Prison No. 1. Neither his lawyer nor his family have been able to visit him to date.

In addition, Mr. Le Quoc Quan’s arrest follows a recent order by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung that authorities renew the fight against anyone using the Internet to “defame and spread propaganda against the State”.

Mr. Le Quoc Quan has been harassed constantly since 2007 by the Vietnamese authorities because of his human rights activities [1]. On October 3, 2012, some 50 security police and plain-clothed militia forced entry into the head office of VietNam Credit in Hanoi and its branch office in Saigon. The firm belongs to Mr. Le Quoc Quan and his two brothers Messrs. Le Dinh Quan and Le Quoc Quyet. Police seized files and documents belonging to the firm, assaulted the staff and detained the brothers for interrogation. On October 30, they returned and arrested Le Dinh Quan, also for alleged “tax evasion”. He is currently detained in Hoa Lo Prison No. 3. In addition, on August 18, 2012, Mr. Le Quoc Quan was brutally beaten by two unidentified men with iron bars outside his home in Hanoi.

The Observatory strongly condemns Mr. Le Quoc Quan’s detention, as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning his legitimate human rights activities, and recalls that allegations of tax evasion have previously been levelled against human rights defenders. Blogger Nguyen Van Hai, alias Dieu Cay, founding member of the Club of Free Journalists, was initially jailed for tax evasion but then sentenced in September 2012 to 12 years in jail for spreading anti-State propaganda under Article 88 of the Criminal Code, along with two other bloggers and members of the Club of Free Journalists, Ms. Ta Phong Tan and Mr. Phan Thanh Hai [2]. On December 28, 2012, an appeals court upheld the 12-year prison sentence for Dieu Cay, the 10-year sentence for Ms. Ta Phong Tan and reduced to three-year that against Mr. Phan Thanh Hai.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Viet Nam urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Le Quoc Quan, Dieu Cay, Phan Thanh Hai and Ms. Ta Phong Tan, as well as of all human rights defenders in Viet Nam;

ii. Release Messrs. Le Quoc Quan, Dieu Cay, Phan Thanh Hai and Ms. Ta Phong Tan immediately and unconditionally as their detention seems to merely sanction their human rights activities and is contrary to national and international law;

iii. Put an end to all acts harassment, including at the judicial level, against Messrs. Le Quoc Quan, Dieu Cay, Phan Thanh Hai and Ms. Ta Phong Tan, as well as against all human rights defenders in Viet Nam;

iv. Comply with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular:
- its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,
- as well as Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Viet Nam.

Addresses:

· H.E. Mr. Pham Binh Minh, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1 Ton That Dam St., Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, Vietnam; Tel: 84-4-37992000; 080 48235; Fax: 84-4-38231872 – 84-4-37992682, Email: bc.mfa@mofa.gov.vn
· H.E. Mr. Nguyen Thai Binh, Minister of Interior, 37A Nguyen Binh Khiem St., Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi, Vietnam; Tel: 84-4-39764116 – 84-4-39764278; Fax: 84-4-39781005
· H.E. Mr. Ha Hung Cuong, Minister of Justice, 56-60 Tran Phu St., Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, Vietnam; Tel: 84-4-37336213 – 84-4-37338068; Fax: 84-4-38431431
· H.E. Mr. Tran Dai Quang, Minister of Public Security, 44 Yet Kieu St., Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam; Tel: 84-4-069 42545 - 84-4-048 226602; Fax: 84-4-9420223
· H.E. Mr. Vu Duc Dam, Minister, Office of the Government (OOG), 1 Hoang Hoa Tham St. Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, Vietnam; Tel: 84-4-80 43100; 84-4-80 43569; Fax: 84-4-80 44130
· H.E. Mr Vũ Dũng, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotential, Permanent Representative, 30 chemin des Corbillettes, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland; Tel (Assistant): +41 022-791 85 40; Phone: +41 (0) 22 791 85 40; Fax: +41 (0) 22-798 07 24; Email : info@vnmission-ge.gov.vn
· HE Mr. PHAM Sanh Chau, Ambassador, Boulevard Général Jacques 1, 1050 Brussels, Belgium. Tel: +32 (0)2 379 27 37; Fax : +32 (0)2 374 93 76; Email: vnemb.brussels@skynet.be / unescochau@yahoo.com

Please also write to the embassies of Viet Nam in your respective country.
Last Update 4 January 2013
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Footnotes

[1In 2007, Mr. Le Quoc Quan returned to Viet Nam, after a five-month study in the US on a Reagan-Fascell scholarship, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). After his study he published a report titled Democracy in Vietnam: the role of society. Only four days after his return, he was arrested on suspicion of engaging in “activities to overthrow the regime”. He was finally released after 100 days in prison, but no longer permitted to leave Viet Nam. Subsequently, Mr. Le Quoc Quan was arrested three more times. He was also disbarred and placed under constant surveillance. Despite this, he continued to blog on issues of human rights, democracy and social justice and took part in demonstrations in Hanoi denouncing Chinese encroachments on Vietnamese territories.

[2See Observatory Urgent Appeal VNM 001/ 0212 / OBS 018.2, issued on September 27, 2012.

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