Posts Tagged ‘Viet Nam’

Chau Van Kham – Australian human rights defender – ‘disappeared’ inside Vietnam’s prison system

June 8, 2020

Chau Van Kham’s family has lost contact with him for nearly four months and fear the Australian government has ‘forgotten about him’ writes the Guardian on 6 June 2020.

Chau Van Kham

Vietnamese-born Australian, Chau Van Kham, was arrested in January 2019 and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment on ‘financing terrorism’ charges. Photograph: HRW/HANDOUT/EPA

Ben Doherty reports that the 70-year-old Australian Vietnamese-born Chau has “disappeared” inside Vietnam’s prison system and that no one from his family or the Australian government has been allowed to see or speak with him for nearly four months. Human rights advocates, lawyers and Chau Van Kham’s family said the charges against him are baseless and politically motivated, his single-day multiple-defendant trial was grossly unfair, and his failing health means his 12-year prison sentence is “effectively a death sentence”.

Chau’s son Dennis told the Guardian his family feared his failing health will be exacerbated by his isolation.  Chau’s sister, who lives in Vietnam, had previously been allowed to visit once a month to give her brother money, medicine and letters from home. But she has been refused access and phone calls to him since 10 February. Consular visits scheduled for February, March, April and May were all cancelled out of concerns over the spread of Covid-19. Permission for a visit in June is pending.

He has literally disappeared,” Australian lawyer Dan Phuong Nguyen, who is acting pro bono for the Chau family, told the Guardian.

[Chau, an Australian citizen, was born in Vietnam and served in the army of the Republic of Vietnam before 1975. After the war, he was sent to a re-education camp for three years before he fled Vietnam by boat, arriving in Australia in 1983. In Sydney, he worked as a baker for decades, rising before dawn to work at a modest suburban bakery. In 2010, he became a member of the Viet Tan pro-democracy organisation, and became a key Australian organiser of pro-reform rallies and an outspoken advocate for democratisation in Vietnam. The United Nations describes Viet Tan as “a peaceful organisation advocating for democratic reform”, but it was formally proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the Vietnamese government in 2016, which said it was “a reactionary and terrorist organisation, always silently carrying out activities against Vietnam.]

Chau sought to return to Vietnam in 2019 to meet fellow pro-democracy advocates but was refused a visa. He crossed into Vietnam via a land border with Cambodia in January, carrying a false identity document. He was arrested after meeting a democracy activist who, it is believed, was under surveillance, along with Vietnamese nationals Nguyen Van Vien and Tran Van Quyen, who were sentenced to 11 and 10 years prison respectively.

Chau was convicted and sentenced at his first appearance in the people’s court of Ho Chi Minh City after more than 10 months in detention.

The single-day judge-only trial, held simultaneously with four other people, saw him tried and convicted on charges of “financing terrorism”, and sentenced to 12 years in jail, all within four hours.

The court was effectively closed – open only for approved people, his family was excluded – for the entirety of the trial. Viet Tan condemned Chau’s hearing as a “sham trial” and said it would “continue to support human rights defenders on the ground”.  Chau’s appeal was dismissed in March.

Dennis Chau told a human rights summit in Geneva this year: “With a 12-year sentence, [my father will] be 82 when he is released … I don’t believe I’ll ever see him alive, a free man. It’s effectively a death sentence.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/07/jailed-australian-democracy-activist-has-disappeared-inside-vietnams-prison-system

Amnesty accuses Facebook of complicity in Vietnamese censorship

April 22, 2020

On 21 April, Reuters reported that Facebook has begun to significantly step up its censorship of “anti-state” posts in the country. This follows pressure from the authorities, including what the company suspects were deliberate restrictions placed on its local servers by state-owned telecommunications companies that caused Facebook to become unusable for periods of time. The next day Amnesty International demanded that Facebook reverses immediately its decision.  “The revelation that Facebook is caving to Viet Nam’s far-reaching demands for censorship is a devastating turning point for freedom of expression in Viet Nam and beyond,” said William Nee, Business and Human Rights Advisor at Amnesty International. “The Vietnamese authorities’ ruthless suppression of freedom of expression is nothing new, but Facebook’s shift in policy makes them complicit.

Facebook must base its content regulation on international human rights standards for freedom of expression, not on the arbitrary whims of a rights-abusing government. Facebook has a responsibility to respect freedom of expression by refusing to cooperate with these indefensible takedown requests.” The Vietnamese authorities have a long track record of characterizing legitimate criticism as “anti-state” and prosecuting human rights defenders for “conducting propaganda against the state.” The authorities have been actively suppressing online speech amid the COVID-19 pandemic and escalating repressive tactics in recent weeks.  “It is shocking that the Vietnamese authorities are further restricting its peoples’ access to information in the midst of a pandemic. The Vietnamese authorities are notorious for harassing peaceful critics and whistleblowers. This move will keep the world even more in the dark about what is really happening in Viet Nam,” said William Nee.

Facebook’s decision follows years of efforts by Vietnamese authorities to profoundly undermine freedom of expression online, during which they prosecuted an increasing number of peaceful government critics for their online activity and introduced a repressive cybersecurity law that requires technology companies to hand over potentially vast amounts of data, including personal information, and to censor users’ posts. “Facebook’s compliance with these demands sets a dangerous precedent. Governments around the world will see this as an open invitation to enlist Facebook in the service of state censorship. It does all tech firms a terrible disservice by making them vulnerable to the same type of pressure and harassment from repressive governments,” said William Nee…

In a report published last year, Amnesty International found that around 10% of Viet Nam’s prisoners of conscience – individuals jailed solely for peacefully exercising their human rights – were jailed in relation to their Facebook activity. In January 2020, the Vietnamese authorities launched an unprecedented crackdown on social media, including Facebook and YouTube, in an attempt to silence public discussion of a high-profile land dispute in the village of Dong Tam, which has attracted persistent allegations of corruption and led to deadly clashes between security forces and villagers.  The crackdown has only intensified since the onset of COVID-19. Between January and mid-March, a total of 654 people were summoned to police stations across Viet Nam to attend “working sessions” with police related to their Facebook posts connected to the virus, among whom 146 were subjected to financial fines and the rest were forced to delete their posts. On 15 April, authorities introduced a sweeping new decree, 15/2020, which imposes new penalties on alleged social media content which falls foul of vague and arbitrary restrictions. The decree further empowers the government to force tech companies to comply with arbitrary censorship and surveillance measures.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/10/28-ngos-ask-eu-parliament-to-reject-cooperation-deal-with-vietnam-on-11-february/

Re Facebook and content moderation see also the Economist piece of 1 February 2020: https://www.economist.com/business/2020/01/30/facebook-unveils-details-of-its-content-oversight-board

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/04/viet-nam-facebook-cease-complicity-government-censorship/

Assaults on Human Rights Defenders on the rise in Vietnam

January 14, 2016

The second half of 2015 saw an alarming rise in the number of violent attacks and threats against human rights defenders, petitioners, and their family members in Vietnam. The Stockholm-based NGO, Civil Rights Defenders published an overview:

Skärmavbild 2015-12-16 kl. 09.32.35

Between June and mid December 2015, at least 22 incidents of violent attacks were reported through out the country, affecting at least 42 persons (see timeline below). This is an increase from the January-May period, during which at least 14 attacks affecting 27 persons were recorded. Many of these attacks were perpetrated with impunity in broad daylight by police or plainclothes agents. In some cases, defenders’ family members or their private residence was targeted.

These blatant violations of the right to personal security are leaving behind a blood trail that is shockingly inimical to Vietnam’s status as a member of the UN Human Rights Council and a state party to numerous human rights treaties,” said Marie Månson, Human Rights Defenders at Risk Programme Director at Civil Rights Defenders. Vietnam abstained from a UN General Assembly draft resolution on the recognition and protection of human rights defenders.

There has been an increase of violent attacks against human rights defenders in Vietnam in the second half of 2015.

At least 28 defenders and petitioners are known to have been arbitrarily detained and questioned by police in the same period, including blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, the recipient of the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award. [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/vietnamese-blogger-mother-mushroom-gets-civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award-2015/

When its human rights record was reviewed in 2014 under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Vietnam agreed to implement numerous human rights recommendations, including to ensure a “favourable”, “friendly” and “safe and enabling” environment for human rights defenders and civil society actors. In a statement marking International Human Rights Day last week, deputy minister of foreign affairs Ha Kim Ngoc said that Vietnam “steadfastly pursues the policy of ensuring full enforcement of basic rights and freedom for each citizen.”

In addition to violent attacks, scores of human rights defenders and government critics remain in prison after being convicted in unfair trials under broad and vague provisions of the Penal Code. Several activists and bloggers are in detention awaiting trial, including blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh BaSam) and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, former prisoner of conscience Tran Anh Kim, and blogger Nguyen Dinh Ngoc (aka Nguyen Ngoc Gia).

Seriously flawed provisions often abused to prosecute activists remain intact in the recently revised Penal Code, adopted in late November and effective from 01st July 2016. The National Assembly is considering a draft law on associations that contains highly restrictive provisions and intrusive requirements inconsistent with the right to freedom of association.

Click here to download a timeline of harassments and attacks against human rights defenders in Vietnam.

In a statement released on 6 January, Civil Rights Defenders joins 25 human rights society groups in calling on the Vietnamese authorities to immediately release and drop charges against human rights defenders Mr Nguyễn Vãn Ðài and Ms Lê Thu Hà, who have been in police custody in Hanoi after their arrest three weeks ago. The police have charged Ðài, a former prisoner of conscience, and his colleague Hà with “anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code, which carries a prison sentence of between three and 20 years.

The signatories have also highlighted concerns that the two defenders may be at risk of torture and other ill treatment in detention. Ðài was still recovering from injuries he sustained ten days before his arrest when he and three other activists were viciously attacked by stick-wielding, masked assailants in Nghe An province. The police have reportedly denied Ðài access to his lawyer and family members. Ðài and Hà’s arrests came a month before the 12th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). Past party congresses were usually preceded by an escalation of crackdown on human rights advocates and dissidents.

Brave human rights defenders like Ðài and Hà do not belong behind bars and must be allowed to freely conduct their legitimate work defending and educating others about the rights guaranteed by the Vietnamese Constitution and by international law,” says Robert Hårdh, Executive Director of Civil Rights Defenders.

Source: Civil Rights Defenders – Assaults on Human Rights Defenders on the Rise in Vietnam

http://www.civilrightsdefenders.org/news/vietnam-must-end-arbitrary-detention-of-human-rights-defenders/

Vietnamese blogger and human rights defender Nguyen Chi Tuyen attacked

May 14, 2015

On 11 May 2015, environmental rights defender Mr Nguyen Chi Tuyen was attacked by five unidentified men in Hanoi, Vietnam, according to information received by Front Line Defenders. The human rights defender’s car was halted in the Long Bien District by five masked men, who surrounded the vehicle. The assailants proceeded to beat Nguyen Chi Tuyen with iron bars, and left him unconscious at the scene. Tuyen suffered injuries to his face, head, arms and legs, and received six stitches before being discharged from hospital.

Nguyen Chi Tuyen is an environmental activist, blogger and human rights defender. He provides support to human rights activists facing harassment by police and has played a prominent role in peaceful demonstrations calling for transparency in the development of environmental policies in Hanoi. He promotes environmental and human rights causes through his blog.

[Nguyen Chi Tuyen has previously been subjected to intimidation and harassment as a result of his environmental and human rights works. During the execution by Hanoi city officials of a widely opposed plan to cut down 6708 trees in the city, the environmental rights defender was placed under constant surveillance by police.]

Vietnam – Blogger and environmental rights defender Nguyen Chi Tuyen attacked | Front Line Defenders.

Honoring some of the many women human rights defenders on International Women’s Day

March 9, 2014

Yesterday, 7 March 2014, saw many expressions of solidarity with women human rights defenders at the occasion of International Women’s Day.

The ISHR picked the following cases as examples that stand out:

You can find many more cases via the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition [http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/] which brings together women activists and those committed to the advancement of women human rights and those working on gender issues, to advocate for better protection of women human rights defenders.

via Honouring women human rights defenders on International Women’s Day! | ISHR.

Committee to Protect Journalists publishes New Risk List: Where Press Freedom is going down

February 8, 2014

The Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ] has published its Risk List, indicating where press freedom is in decline. In determining the list, CPJ staff examined six press freedom indicators: fatalities, imprisonments, restrictive legislation, state censorship, impunity in anti-press attacks, and journalists driven into exile. Countries named to the Risk List are not necessarily the world’s worst places for journalists; such a list would include nations like North Korea and Eritrea, where free expression has long been suffocated. Instead, the Risk List identifies the 10 places where CPJ documented the most significant downward trends during 2012. Those trends included:

  • High murder rates and entrenched impunity in Pakistan, Somalia, and Brazil.
  • The use of restrictive laws to silence dissent in Ecuador, Turkey, and Russia.
  • The imprisonment of large numbers of journalists, typically on anti-state charges, to thwart critical reporting in Ethiopia, Turkey, Vietnam, Iran, and Syria.
  • An exceedingly high fatality rate in Syria, where journalists faced multiple risks from all sides in the conflict.

CPJ, which is publishing its Risk List for the first time, identified Syria and Somalia, which are racked by conflict, along with Iran, Vietnam, and Ethiopia, nations that are ruled with an authoritarian grip. But half of the nations on the Risk List– Brazil, Turkey, Pakistan, and Russia, along with Ecuador–practice some form of democracy and exert significant influence on a regional or international stage.

Threats to press freedom were not confined within the borders of these nations. Four Risk List countries sought to undermine international or regional press freedom initiatives during the year. Russia pushed for centralized control of the Internet ahead of the World Conference on International Telecommunications. Ecuador led an effort, supported by Brazil, to weaken the ability of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to intervene in cases of systemic or grave press freedom abuses. Brazil and Pakistan were among a handful of countries that tried to derail a U.N. plan to improve journalist security and combat impunity worldwide.

Setbacks in Brazil are particularly alarming given its status as a regional leader and home to a diverse array of news media. But a spike in journalist murders, a failure to address impunity, and a pattern of judicial censorship have put Brazil’s press freedom at risk, CPJ found. Turkey, too, has projected an image as a regional model for freedom and democracy. But while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed a commitment to press freedom, his administration has wielded an anti-terror law as a club to jail and intimidate journalists.

Less surprising, but no less worrisome are setbacks in Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Iran. Though Ethiopia and Vietnam have been applauded for economic strides, both countries have lagged in terms of openness and freedom of the press. Conditions worsened in 2012, as Ethiopian and Vietnamese authorities ramped up efforts to stifle dissent by imprisoning journalists on anti-state charges. Iran, ignoring international criticism of its press record, has intensified an assault on critical voices that began after the disputed 2009 presidential election.

In Syria and Somalia, where journalists faced risks from multiple sides, the death tolls have mounted. Crossfire was the leading cause of death for journalists in Syria, although at least three journalists were assassinated, CPJ research shows. Both rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been implicated in acts of violence against the press. All 12 journalists killed in Somalia in 2012, the country’s bloodiest year for the press, were targeted in direct reprisal for their reporting. Both insurgents and government officials were suspected of involvement. In both countries, the ranks of young journalists, many with little training and experience, have been particularly hard hit.

In the full report below you can find capsule reports on the 10 nations named to the CPJ Risk List:

 http://www.cpj.org/2013/02/attacks-on-the-press-cpj-risk-list.php

Southeast Asian Voices of HRDs being stifled

September 12, 2013

As concerns grow in Southeast Asia over the use of national security, anti-terrorist and defamation laws to limit freedom of expression on the Internet, a coalition of international and local NGOs and activists from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia urged governments to stop using vague legislation based on ill-defined concepts such as “national security”, “sovereignty” or “lèse-majesté” to intimidate, harass and imprison independent voices. Speaking at an event in Geneva, which coincides with the 24th session of the UN Human Rights Council, FIDH, IFEX, Article 19 and PEN International united to call for the urgent revision of these laws to bring them into line with international human rights standards. Independent and dissenting voices, including bloggers and netizens, journalists, activists and human rights defenders, have increasingly been subjected to repression in Southeast Asia.

A lot more detail in  Human Rights Council : Stifled Southeast Asian Voices: NGOs Unite … – FIDH.

FIDH urges UN Human Rights Council to condemn Vietnam over jailing of dozens of cyber-dissidents

March 10, 2013

On 10 January 2013 I posted something on the largest ever trial of internet dissidents in Viet Nam. On 8 March this issue was continued in the UN:

We call upon the Council to press Vietnam to put an end to this repression,” said Vo Van Ai, speaking on behalf of Vietnamese campaigners and the International Federation of Human Rights. In a speech to the UN body  he said a total of 32 bloggers and other cyber-dissidents were behind bars in Vietnam, either sentenced or awaiting trial. They face prison terms of up to 16 years.

logo FIDH_seul

Such repression does not serve to protect national security, as the Vietnamese authorities claim, but to stifle the voices of an emerging civil society speaking out on corruption, power abuse, the plight of dispossessed peasants and farmers, human rights and democratic reforms,” he said. He condemned Vietnam’s use of Ordinance 44, a 2002 ruling which authorises the detention of suspected national security offenders without due process of the law and which is increasingly deployed against bloggers, sometimes in psychiatric hospitals.

Fellow-campaigner Penelope Faulker, with the French-based group Work Together for Human Rights, noted that after a 2009 United Nations review (UPR), Hanoi had pledged to uphold freedom of information. “However, in the past year alone, scores of bloggers, online journalists and human rights defenders in Vietnam have been harassed, intimated, subjected to police abuse, or condemned to extremely harsh prison sentences simply for expressing their peaceful views on the Internet,” she told the Council. The southeast Asian country has been branded an “enemy of the Internet” by freedom of expression watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

via: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/03/08/human-rights-activists-push-u-n-for-action-over-vietnams-treatment-of-cyber-protesters/

LARGEST EVER TRIAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN VIETNAM

January 10, 2013

ARTICLE 19 staff imageAND VIET TAN ON 9 JANUARY REPORT ON THE TRIAL AND CONDEMNATION OF 14 ACTIVISTS IN VIETNAM

  • Ho Duc Hoa (13 years in prison, 5 years house arrest)
  • Dang Xuan Dieu (13 years in prison, 5 years house arrest)
  • Paulus Le Son (13 years in prison, 5 years house arrest)
  • Nguyen Van Duyet (6 years in prison, 4 years house arrest)
  • Nguyen Van Oai (3 years in prison, 2 years house arrest)
  • Ho Van Oanh (3 years in prison, 2 years house arrest)
  • Nguyen Dinh Cuong (4 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
  • Nguyen Xuan Anh (5 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
  • Thai Van Dung (5 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
  • Tran Minh Nhat (4 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
  • Nong Hung Anh (5 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
  • Nguyen Dang Vinh Phuc (probation)
  • Nguyen Dang Minh Man (9 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
  • Dang Ngoc Minh (3 years in prison, 2 years house arrest)

The men and women were convicted of “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the penal code. The criminal activities the group are said to have engaged in include writing commentary that is critical of the Government and distributing this on the internet, and both participating in and encouraging peaceful protest. ARTICLE 19 believes that these activities should not be considered to be criminal. The Vietnamese authorities have failed to recognise basic human rights and these convictions fail to meet international standards freedom of expression. “Thirteen people [one was given probation – ed] are now behind bars for doing nothing more than expressing legitimate political concerns.  They have been locked away for sharing views about matters of public importance on the internet and for taking part in peaceful demonstrations. These are not things which should be considered criminal. It seems that the real crime here is the appalling abuse of fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of expression, by the state” said Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

The group, many of them bloggers and citizen journalists, were arrested between August and December 2011 and held for more than a year before standing trial.

Arbitrary detention of Vietnamese HRDs such as Le Quoc Quan

January 4, 2013

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), reports the arbitrary detention of Mr. Le Quoc Quan, a human rights lawyer and blogger.

On December 27, 2012, Mr. Le Quoc Quan was arrested by the police in Hanoi while dropping off his daughter at school. The police also searched his office and home and confiscated some documents. The police told his family that he would be charged under Article 161 of the Criminal Code, which relates to tax evasion. If condemned, he risks three years in prison and a heavy fine. Mr. Le Quoc Quan, who began a hunger strike on December 28, is currently detained incommunicado in Hoa Lo Prison No. 1. Neither his lawyer nor his family have been able to visit him to date.

Mr. Le Quoc Quan’s arrest follows a recent order by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung that authorities renew the fight against anyone using the Internet to “defame and spread propaganda against the State”.Mr. Le Quoc Quan has been harassed constantly since 2007 by the Vietnamese authorities because of his human rights activities. On October 3, 2012, some 50 security police and plain-clothed militia forced entry into the head office of VietNam Credit in Hanoi and its branch office in Saigon. The firm belongs to Mr. Le Quoc Quan and his two brothers. Police seized files and documents belonging to the firm, assaulted the staff and detained the brothers for interrogation. In addition, on August 18, 2012, Mr. Le Quoc Quan was brutally beaten by two unidentified men with iron bars outside his home in Hanoi.

The Observatory recalls that allegations of tax evasion have previously been levelled against human rights defenders. Blogger Nguyen Van Hai, alias Dieu Cay, founding member of the Club of Free Journalists, was initially jailed for tax evasion but then sentenced in September 2012 to 12 years in jail for spreading anti-State propaganda under Article 88 of the Criminal Code, along with two other bloggers and members of the Club of Free Journalists.

via Viet Nam: Arbitrary detention of Mr. Le Quoc Quan / January 4, 2013 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT.