Arrest and arbitrary detention of Mr. Nguyen Van Dai, a human rights lawyer and well-known defender of religious freedom

VNM 001 / 1215 / OBS 110
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
December 18, 2015

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 Vietnam.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) about the arrest and arbitrary detention of Mr. Nguyen Van Dai, a human rights lawyer and well-known defender of religious freedom.

According to the information received, on December 16, 2015 at around 8.30 am, about 25 police officers arrested Mr. Nguyen Van Dai at his house in Hanoi after searching his house and confiscating several of his belongings, including two laptops and one desktop computer, several USB sticks, a camera and two camcorders, books on human rights, four envelopes containing money that Nguyen Van Dai uses to support relatives of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, and his savings account’s bank book.

Mr. Nguyen Van Dai’s arrest occurred as he was preparing to meet European Union (EU) delegates who were in Hanoi for the fifth EU-Vietnam human rights dialogue, held on December 15.

In a statement posted on its website, the Ministry of Public Security announced it had issued an arrest warrant on December 15 for Mr. Nguyen Van Dai’s arrest.

Mr. Nguyen Van Dai was charged under Article 88 of the Criminal Code (“spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”) for organising meetings and discussions on the 2013 Vietnamese Constitution. Mr. Nguyen Van Dai was informed that he would be temporarily jailed for four months at the B14 Prison in Hanoi, pending trial. If convicted, he faces three to 20 years in prison.

The Observatory recalls that, in July 2002, the United Nations Human Rights Committee denounced the provisions of Article 88 as “incompatible” with international human rights law and demanded their immediate repeal.

Mr. Nguyen Van Dai’s arrest took place after he was subject to a brutal attack on December 6, 2015. On that day, Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and three associates were returning to Hanoi in a taxi after conducting a human rights workshop for residents of Nghe An Province. The four were intercepted and beaten up by men they identified as plainclothes police officers driving two unregistered cars and five motorcycles. The assailants beat Mr. Nguyen Van Dai using metal bars, then dragged him into another vehicle, where masked men took his mobile phone, wallet, and other personal items, before finally releasing him about 50 kms from the place where the attack had taken place.

The Observatory recalls that it is not the first time Mr. Nguyen Van Dai is being intimidated or judicially harassed. Also, in 2007, Mr. Nguyen Van Dai was sentenced to five years in prison and four years probationary detention (house arrest) on charges of anti-government propaganda. The sentence was reduced to four years on appeal (see background information).

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary arrest of Mr. Nguyen Van Dai, as well as the charges against him, which seem to be aimed at sanctioning him for his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities. The Observatory calls on the Vietnamese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him and to drop all charges held against him. Moreover, the Observatory is concerned over the authorities’ ongoing crackdown on bloggers and human rights activists, which has significantly worsened during the year 2015.

Background information:

Since Mr. Nguyen Van Dai founded the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam (now named the Vietnam Human Rights Centre) in November 2006, he has been summoned repeatedly for police interrogations because of his statements in favour of human rights and democracy. During the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), which took place in Hanoi from November 17 to 19, 2006, 10 security police officers surrounded his home and prohibited all visitors.

On February 28, 2007, following pressure from Security Police, the Business Registration Office of Hanoi’s Planning and Investment Bureau issued a “Decision” to withdraw the licence of the Translation and Legal Consultation Firm (TNHH) in Hanoi, of which Mr. Nguyen Van Dai is a co-founder and the Executive Director.

On March 6, 2007, security forces raided the residence of Mr. Nguyen Van Dai in Hanoi and placed him under arrest. He was charged with “spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (Article 88 of the Criminal Code).

On May 11, 2007, the People’s Court of Hanoi sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment and four years’ house arrest under Article 88 of the Criminal Code.

On November 28, 2007, the Hanoi Appeals Court reduced his sentence to four years’ imprisonment and four years’ house arrest.

Following his release in 2011, Nguyen Van Dai continued his human rights activities, submitting testimony to international institutions. He founded the “Brotherhood for Democracy” in 2013.

In June 2013, his house was bugged by the police, and in January and March 2015, his door was twice broken down by police.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Vietnam urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and all other human rights defenders in Vietnam;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Nguyen Van Dai as his detention seems to merely sanction his 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 Mr. Nguyen Van Dai, as well as against all human rights defenders in Vietnam;

iv. Amend Article 88 of the Criminal Code, to bring it in conformity with international human rights standards;

v. 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”;

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


• 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:
• 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
• Mr Nguyen Trung Thanh, 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 :
• HE Mr. PHAM Sanh Chau, Ambassador, Boulevard Général Jacques 1, 1050 Brussels, Belgium. Tel: +32 (0)2. 379 27 37 and (0)2.379 27 49 ; Fax : +32 (0)2. 374 93 76; Email : -

Please also write to the embassies of Vietnam in your respective country.


Paris-Geneva, December 18, 2015

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail:
• Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
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