Vietnam: Land rights defender Trinh Ba Tu tortured in prison

Urgent Appeal
Doan Tuan via Unsplash

New information
VNM 001 / 0422 / OBS 026.2
Torture and ill-treatment /
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
September 27, 2022

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Vietnam.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the acts of torture and ill-treatment perpetrated against Mr Trinh Ba Tu while in detention, as well as about the transfer of Mr Trinh Ba Phuong to a remote prison. Messrs. Tu and Phuong, as well as their detained mother Ms Can Thi Theu, are land rights defenders who have been vocal about land grabbing and its impact on small-scale farmers across the country.

On September 22, 2022, Trinh Ba Phuong informed his sister through a phone call that a few days earlier he had been transferred from Hanoi Police Detention Centre No.1 to An Diem prison, in Quang Nam Province, which is 1,000 km away from his home. Neither Mr. Phuong nor his family had been informed that he would be transferred and, to date, they have not been provided with the reason for this decision.

On September 20, 2022, Trinh Ba Tu received a visit from his father in Thanh Hoa Prison No. 6, Nghe An province. Mr Trinh Ba Khiem, Mr Tu’s father and rights defender himself, was warned by the prison officers that the meeting would be stopped should he fail to limit the conversation to family-related issues.

During the visit, Mr Tu informed his father that on September 6, 2022, he began a hunger strike to protest against the ill-treatment he had been inflicted upon while in detention. He was placed in solitary confinement for ten days, during which he was severely beaten, foot shackled and denied access to the toilet, as a punishment for writing a complaint.

Mr Tu was prevented from sharing further details with his father about these acts of ill-treatment and about the complaint and the hunger strike, as he was abruptly taken away from the visiting room. Prison officers later informed Mr Khiem that Mr Tu was subjected to disciplinary measures, including a change in his family visits. His relatives will be allowed to visit him on a bimonthly basis and not monthly, as it had been the case until then. The prison officers did not mention the reasons for these disciplinary measures against Mr. Tu, nor how long they will be applied for. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Mr. Tu’s health condition remains unknown.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the high risk of torture and ill-treatment Mr Trinh Ba Tu faces while in detention. The Observatory fears he may face renewed physical and psychological punishment as a reprisal for speaking out against the violence perpetrated against him while in detention.

The Observatory recalls that Trinh Ba Tu, Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Phuong were arbitrarily arrested on June 24, 2020, under Article 117 of the Criminal Code (“making, storing or disseminating information, documents, materials and items against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”). Their arrest and detention are connected to their work denouncing on social media the excessive use of force against farmers of the Dong Tam Village, about 25 km Southwest of Hanoi, during a deadly police raid conducted in January 2020, in which a farmer and three policemen died.

On May 5, 2021, Trinh Ba Tu and Can Thi Theu were sentenced by the Hanoi People’s Court to eight years of imprisonment each under Article 117 of the Criminal Code. Their sentence was confirmed on appeal on December 24, 2021 and is final.

Trinh Ba Phuong was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment and five years of probation on December 15, 2021, by the Hanoi People’s Court. His sentence was upheld by the Hanoi High People’s Court on August 17, 2022 and is final. During the investigation, he was subjected to acts of torture and ill-treatment, and was confined to a psychiatric hospital for one month in March 2021.

The relatives of Trinh Ba Tu, Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Phuong have been subjected to repeated acts of harassment and arrest by the police, and have been prevented from attending the trials against the above-mentioned land rights defenders. Moreover, Trinh Ba Phuong’s transfer to a distant prison violates his right to respect for his family life, as it hinders family visits and increases the economic burden his relatives have to face to travel.

The Observatory condemns in the strongest terms the above-mentioned acts of torture and ill-treatment, and urges the Vietnamese authorities to protect and respect Trinh Ba Tu, Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Phuong’s right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment, and to carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned allegations and hold those responsible accountable.

The Observatory further condemns their ongoing arbitrary detention and calls on the authorities to quash their prison sentences and to immediately and unconditionally release them.

The Observatory urges the Vietnamese authorities to stop misusing Article 117 of the Criminal Code to prosecute human rights defenders and silence dissent in Vietnam, and recalls that several United Nations Special Procedures declared that this article is “overly broad and appears to be aimed at silencing those who seek to exercise their human rights to freely express their views and share information with others”.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Vietnam asking them to:
 Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Trinh Ba Tu, Can Thi Theu, Trinh Ba Phuong, their relatives, and of all other human rights defenders in Vietnam;
 Immediately and unconditionally release Trinh Ba Tu, Can Thi Theu, and Trinh Ba Phuong, as their detention is arbitrary and is merely aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;
 Carry out an immediate, thorough, transparent, and impartial investigation into the alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment against Trinh Ba Tu, and Trinh Ba Phuong, in order to hold those responsible accountable;
 Ensure Trinh Ba Phuong’s right to respect for family life is duly respected and protected while in detention, and immediately transfer him to a detention facility closer to his home;
 Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Trinh Ba Tu, Trinh Ba Phuong; and Can Thi Theu, their relatives and all human rights defenders in Vietnam, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals;
 Guarantee the rights to due process and fair trial to Trinh Ba Phuong, Can Thi Theu, and Trinh Ba Tu, including the unhindered access to their lawyers and family;
 Repeal or significantly amend Article 117 of the Criminal Code to bring it into line with Vietnam’s international human rights obligations.


 Mr. Pham Minh Chinh, Prime Minister of Vietnam; Email:, Twitter : @VNGovtPortal
 Mr. Bui Thanh Son, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam; Email: /, Twitter: @MOFAVietNam / @FMBuiThanhSon
 Ms. Pham Thi Thanh Tra, Minister of Home Affairs of Vietnam; Email:
 Mr. Le Thanh Long, Minister of Justice of Vietnam; Email: /
 Mr. Tran Van Son, Minister, Office of the Government (OOG), Email:
 H.E. Ms. Le Thi Tuyet Mai, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Vietnam to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland; Email:
- Embassy of Vietnam in Brussels, Belgium; Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Vietnam in your respective countries.

Paris-Geneva, September 27, 2022

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

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme 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.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
 Tel FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
 Tel OMCT: +41 (0) 22 809 49 39

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