Vietnam: As trial begins, human rights groups call for the release of Nguyen Van Dai and other members of the Brotherhood for Democracy

Press release

(Geneva, Paris) Vietnamese authorities must drop all charges against human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, his assistant Le Thu Ha, and seven other members of the Brotherhood for Democracy and immediately release them, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) urged today.

Brotherhood for Democracy founder Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thu Ha, and the organisation’s members Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, and Nguyen Bac Truyen will appear before the People’s Court in Hanoi on April 5, 2018. If convicted, they could face from 12 years to life in prison or the death penalty.

"The international community must unequivocally condemn the Vietnamese Government’s relentless crackdown on civil society and demand the immediate and unconditional release of Nguyen Van Dai, his colleagues, and all other political prisoners in Vietnam. The lengthy and arbitrary pre-trial detention of Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha deserves a chorus of international outrage.”

Debbie Stothard, FIDH Secretary-General

Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha have been arbitrarily detained without trial since December 16, 2015. Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, and Nguyen Bac Truyen were simultaneously arrested at their homes in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Thanh Hoa on July 30, 2017, and have been arbitrarily detained since. Three other members of the group, Nguyen Trung Truc, Nguyen Van Tuc, and Tran Thi Xuan, arrested between July and October 2017, remain in custody. Nguyen Van Tuc is expected to stand trial on April 10, 2018 in Thai Binh Province.

On December 31, 2017, the Supreme People’s Procuracy in Hanoi announced that Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thu Ha, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, and Nguyen Bac Truyen were accused of “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s government” (formerly Article 79, now Article 109 in the amended Criminal Code). Charges against them include advocating for the establishment of a free market economy and a democratic government, calling on international organisations to speak out against human rights violations, and giving legal support to dispossessed farmers and victims of the Formosa pollution disaster.

Since his arrest over two years ago, Nguyen Van Dai has not been allowed to meet with his lawyer, and his wife has only been permitted to visit him three times. In June 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Nguyen Van Dai’s detention arbitrary and called for his release. Other members of the Brotherhood for Democracy have also been denied access to their families and lawyers, and have had no opportunity to prepare their defence.

"This trial is a shocking display of Vietnam’s disregard of its binding obligations under core international human rights treaties to which it is a state party. Dai and his colleagues are facing execution for peaceful and legitimate human rights activities, without being able to prepare their defence. This is a new low even for Hanoi’s repressive regime.”

Vo Van Ai, VCHR President

Brotherhood for Democracy is an independent civil society organisation that promotes human rights through online actions and coordinates the efforts of various pro-democracy actors in the country. Its members have a long record of harassment by Government authorities. Prior to the current detention, Nguyen Van Dai, Truong Minh Duc, Pham Van Troi, and Nguyen Bac Truyen had been arrested and served lengthy prison terms for their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities.

"We strongly condemn the harassment, arbitrary arrest, and trial of Nguyen Van Dai and the Brotherhood for Democracy members, which illustrate the Vietnamese Government’s relentless efforts to intimidate and silence human rights defenders for their legitimate human rights activities.”

Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General

Since December 2017, at least 24 activists and human rights defenders have been sentenced to prison terms in Vietnam. The country holds at least 130 political prisoners.

For more information, please contact:
• VCHR: Penelope Faulkner (Vietnamese/English/French) - Tel: +33 1 45 98 30 85
• FIDH: Andrea Giorgetta (English) - Tel: +66 88 6117722 (Bangkok) / Audrey Couprie & Samuel Hanryon (French/English) - Tel: +33 6 48 05 91 57 (Paris)
• OMCT: Delphine Reculeau (French/English) - Tel: +41 22 809 49 39 (Geneva)

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this program is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

Read more