Imprisonment of bloggers and women activists marks escalation of crackdown

Press release
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(Paris) The imprisonment of two bloggers and four female activists within eight days under Vietnam’s draconian laws marks a troubling escalation of the government’s crackdown on peaceful dissent, FIDH and its member organization Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said today.

“The recent wave of arbitrary imprisonment of bloggers and activists illustrates the government’s ruthlessness in dealing with peaceful dissent. Vietnam must immediately stop the intensified crackdown and release all political prisoners.”

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

On 30 March 2016, the People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced blogger Nguyen Dinh Ngoc aka Nguyen Ngoc Gia to four years in prison and three years of house arrest on charges of “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the Criminal Code. The sentence imposed on Nguyen Dinh Ngoc was the result of his arrest on 27 December 2014 at his home in Ho Chi Minh City for “illegal activities.” Ngoc was accused of writing numerous articles critical of the government for various blogs and websites from February to December of 2014. According to the indictment, police were informed of Ngoc’s activities by the state-owned Saigon Postel Corporation, which provided his Internet access. The company monitored Ngoc’s online activities and filed a complaint against him for "seeking to tarnish the Communist Party’s reputation."

In separate cases, on 30 March 2016, the People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced three women to prison terms of up to four years under Article 88 of the Criminal Code. Ngo Thi Minh Uoc, 57, was sentenced to four years in prison while Nguyen Thi Tri and Nguyen Thi Be Hai, both 58, received three-year prison sentences. The court also sentenced all three to two years of house arrest to be served upon completion of their prison terms. The three women were found guilty of waving the flag of the former Republic of (South) Vietnam and chanting anti-state slogans outside the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City on 7 July 2014 during a protest against land confiscation. Ngo Thi Minh Uoc, Nguyen Thi Tri, and Nguyen Thi Be Hai are members of the “Victims of Injustice,” a movement that campaigns against land confiscation, forced evictions, police brutality, and arbitrary detentions across Vietnam. All three have been detained since their arrest at the demonstration.

The above-referenced prison sentences were imposed a week after Vietnam jailed another blogger and an activist under one of its many repressive laws. On 23 March 2016, a People’s Court in Hanoi court sentenced blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy to five and three years in prison respectively for “abusing democratic freedoms to harm the interests of the State” under Article 258 of the Criminal Code. The two had been accused of “publishing online articles with bad contents and misleading information to lower the prestige and create public distrust of government offices, social organizations, and citizens.”

“The draconian provisions of Vietnam’s Criminal Code have no place in the legal system of a country that aims to become a preferred trading partner of the EU and the US. Washington and Brussels must use their political and economic leverage to demand an urgent and comprehensive reform of its repressive laws.”

Vo Van Ai, VCHR President

Amendments to the Criminal Code, adopted by the National Assembly on 27 November 2015, failed to repeal numerous clauses that are inconsistent with Vietnam’s obligations under international law. In addition to Articles 88 and 258, other provisions that fail to comply with international standards include: [1] Article 79 (‘activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration’); Article 80 (‘spying’); and Article 87 (‘undermining national solidarity, sowing divisions between religious and non-religious people’). Vietnamese authorities have repeatedly used these provisions to suppress the right to freedom of opinion and expression and to detain government critics.

FIDH and VCHR have consistently denounced and called for the repeal of the above-referenced ‘national security’ legislation that is overly broad and totally inconsistent with Vietnam’s commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Vietnam holds about 130 political prisoners - the largest number among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states.

Press contacts
FIDH: Mr. Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33672284294 (Paris)
FIDH: Ms. Audrey Couprie (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33648059157 (Paris)
FIDH: Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) - Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok)
VCHR: Ms. Penelope Faulkner (Vietnamese, English, French) - Tel: +33611898681 (Paris)
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