Vietnam: Imprisonment of blogger and activist condemned

Press release

(Paris) The Vietnamese government must immediately end the ongoing repression of peaceful dissent, release all political prisoners, and repeal its draconian legislation, FIDH and its member organization Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said today.

The two organizations reiterated their demands in response to today’s decision by a Hanoi court to sentence 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.”

“Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy should not have spent a single day in prison for merely exercising their right to freedom of expression. They must be immediately released, along with all other political prisoners in the country.”

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy have been detained since their arrest on 5 May 2014 in Hanoi. Nguyen Huu Vinh, a former police officer and the son of Vietnam’s ambassador to the former Soviet Union, is the founder of the widely-read Basam (‘Gossip’) website. Basam, one of the most popular sources for news and comments about human rights, democracy, and corruption in Vietnam, often featured articles critical of the Vietnamese government’s policies. In 2013 and 2014, hackers repeatedly attacked the website.

“Today’s verdict is all the more concerning because it could signal a new wave of repression as new party leaders assume control.”

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

The trial of Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, originally scheduled for 19 January 2016, was postponed ahead of the Vietnam Communist Party’s (VCP’s) congress, held in Hanoi from 21 to 28 January 2016. Between 31 March and 12 April 2016, Vietnam’s National Assembly will endorse the new leadership nominated by the VCP. Minister of Public Security Tran Dai Quang, who has overseen the ongoing crackdown on bloggers, activists, and human rights defenders, is slated to become the country’s new President.

“Without the repeal of Vietnam’s numerous repressive laws that continue to be used to target government critics, it is extremely likely that the number of political prisoners will rise under a new hardline leadership. It is time for the international community to step up its pressure for genuine legislative and political reforms in Vietnam.”

Vo Van Ai, VCHR President

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

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 Article 258, other provisions that fail to comply with international standards include: Article 79 (‘activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration’); Article 80 (‘spying’); Article 87 (‘undermining national solidarity, sowing divisions between religious and non-religious people’); and Article 88 (‘conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’). 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.

Press contacts
FIDH: Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33672284294 (Paris)
FIDH: Audrey Couprie (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33648059157 (Paris)
VCHR: Penelope Faulkner (Vietnamese, English, French) - Tel: +33611898681 (Paris)
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