Vietnam Jails Six Human Rights Activists

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

HANOI, Vietnam – In Vietnam, six human rights activists were sentenced to between 7 and 15 years in jail. The activists were charged for “attempting to overthrow the state” on Thursday, April 5th, 2018. The sentenced imposed on the activists is the harshest sentence in years in Vietnam. All of them will face up to five years under house arrest when they are released from prison.

Human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Photo courtesy of Lam Khanh via REUTERS.

The six activists were connected to the Brotherhood for Democracy group. They were accused of pushing multi-party democracy and receiving money from overseas. Blogger Pham Van Troi, priest Nguyen Trung Ton, journalist Truong Minh Duc, entrepreneur Nguyen Bac Truyen, and human rights worker Le Thu Ha were all sentenced on Thursday.

The Hanoi People’s Court gave Nguyen Van Dai, a human rights lawyer, the longest sentence for “trying to overthrow the people’s administration.” He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Ms Vu Minh Khanh, Dai’s wife, expressed her disappointment with the trial. She claims that “he is innocent and he pleaded innocent at the trial.”

Since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the Communist Party of Vietnam has ruled the country. Although the country has been reforming its economy and its social policies, the government retains a tight grip on media censorship.

Amnesty International believes that there are around 97 prisoners being held in jail for their human rights work in the country.

On the recent actions taken by the Vietnamese government, the United States State Department stated that “the United States is deeply concerned by the Vietnamese government’s efforts to restrict these rights, through a disturbing trend of increased arrests, convictions, and harsh sentences of peaceful activists.” Moreover, the spokesperson went further by stating that “individuals have the right to the fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, both online and offline.”

CNN – Six activists jailed in Vietnam amid crackdown on dissent – 5 April, 2018

The Guardian – Vietnam jails six activists for up to 15 years for trying to ‘overthrow state’ – 5 April, 2018

The Straits Times – Vietnam jails human rights lawyer, five other activists – 6 April, 2018

Top Vietnamese Blogger Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

HANOI, Vietnam – Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, one of Vietnam’s top bloggers, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of distributing propaganda against the government. Otherwise known as “Mother Mushroom,” Ms. Quynh is an activist raising awareness of social injustice and environmental issues in Vietnam. She first started the blog in 2006 and is known for her famous tagline, “Who will speak if you don’t?”

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, one of Vietnam’s top bloggers, was charged with distributing propaganda against the government. Photo courtesy of CNN.

Ms. Quynh was arrest in October when she visited a fellow activist in prison. Since her arrest, Ms. Quynh has not been allowed to meet any visitors. Her attorney, who she was only allowed to meet nine days before the trial, stated that the sentence was “too heavy and unfair for the accused.”

In 2009, she was arrested for 10 days for “abuse of democracy and infringing on the national benefit.” The Vietnamese government ordered Ms. Quynh to give up blogging and post a letter on the site explaining her love for the country. Upon her release, she blogged again two months later.

The United States government recently called on Vietnam to release Ms. Quynh. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch asked Vietnam to drop all charges against her.

Ms. Quynh has received numerous awards, including the Sweden-based Civil Rights Defenders award. Moreover, the U.S. State Department has also awarded the International Women of Courage Award early this year.

Since her arrest, around 1,000 activist, bloggers, and lawyers signed a petition demanding her release.

It is reported that the arrest of activists in Vietnam is not unusual. In fact, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch stated that the “Vietnamese government uses vague national security laws to silence activists and throttle free speech.”

In Vietnam, the internet has been the main forum for the country’s growing number of dissenting voices. Due to this reason, the Vietnamese government has asked social media sites, such as Facebook and YouTube to censor the content.

For more information, please see: 

NYT – With Social Media, Vietnam’s Dissidents Grow Bolder Despite Crackdown – 2 July, 2017

CNN – Vietnamese blogger Mother Mushroom jailed for 10 years – 29 June, 2017

BBC – ‘Mother Mushroom’: Top Vietnamese blogger jailed for 10 years – 29 June, 2017

Human Rights Organizations Warn Against Vietnam’s Human Rights Offenses

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

HANOI, Vietnam – The Vietnamese government is receiving international criticism for its human rights offenses. According to a study which measures global levels of human rights offenses, Vietnam is considered one of the world’s most authoritarian police states. Activists are concerned that too little attention is paid to the human rights abuses in Vietnam, despite the fact that its neighboring states are often criticized for their offenses.

Protesters hold signs calling for justice in the trials of dissident blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh and land protection activist Can Thi Theu in Hanoi, Vietnam in September 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

One major human rights offense propagated by the Vietnamese government is the imprisonment of anyone voicing political opposition to the communist state. Amnesty International reports that Vietnam detained 91 prisoners for their political beliefs in 2016, eight of which were journalists.

Amnesty International has also called attention to Vietnam’s execution rate, as it is the third largest executioner over the last three years. The government executed 429 people between August 2013 and June 2016, the human rights organization reported. The high death toll raises questions about the victim’s cases, legal proceedings, as well as the nature of their crimes. The government, however, has yet to release answers to such probes.

Vietnam is a communist country, so the government is able to control much of society, culture, and political philosophy. Recently, citizens have begun to act out in protest against the government and in favor of more rights and liberties. Villagers in a Hanoi suburb are holding twelve police officers and more than a dozen others hostage over a land dispute. The government attempted to seize land for official use, but villagers were unhappy with the stipend they were paid in turn. Activists are applauding the effort and encourage more to speak out against oppressive state action.

For more information, please see:

The Diplomat – Vietnam’s Quiet Human Rights Crisis – 17 April, 2017

Foreign Policy – This Village In Vietnam Is Holding A Dozen Police Officers Hostage – 17 April, 2017 

Asian Correspondent – Vietnam’s ‘conveyer belt of executions’ condemned by human rights watchdog – 11 April, 2017 

Radio Free Asia – Detained Vietnamese Human Rights Attorney to Receive Award For His Work – 4 April, 2017