The sentencing of the six activists yesterday for peacefully expressing their opinions, illustrates the Vietnam authorities’ utter contempt for freedom of expression, said global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.
The six, linked to the Brotherhood for Democracy, include prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. Van Dai, arrested in 2015, is the co-founder of the Vietnam Human Rights Committee and a pro-democracy activist. He has provided legal assistance to citizens who have faced human rights violations committed by the government and members of religious minorities, and has faced judicial harassment.
Others also received equally harsh sentences. Nguyen Trung Ton and Truong Minh Doc, 12 years imprisonment; Nguyen Van Bac Truen, 11 years imprisonment; Le Thu Ha, nine years imprisonment and Nguyen Van Troi, seven years imprisonment.
The activists were all charged under Article 79 of the Penal Code for ‘attempting to overthrow the state ‘and sentenced after a one-day summary trial.
“The convictions of these activist after a sham trial is a slap in the face of justice. It demonstrates the ruthless determination of the authorities to crush all forms of dissent in Vietnam and to silence peaceful critics. CIVICUS calls for the verdict to be quashed and for the immediate and unconditional release of all of them” said David Kode, Advocacy & Campaigns Lead.
Fundamental freedoms are severely curtailed in Vietnam with activists, journalists and bloggers routinely arrested and imprisoned under vaguely defined national security laws. Media outlets are heavily censored and peaceful protesters have faced arbitrary arrests and excessive use of force by the police. Jailed activists have also been transferred to remote prisons, thousands of kilometers from their families.
In February 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, said ‘he was deeply concerned by the increasing number of arrests and the detention of rights activists and journalists covering issues of public relevance in Vietnam.’
“Vietnam has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The authorities must comply with its obligations and halt the harassment, arbitrary arrest and prosecution of activists and bloggers for peacefully carrying out their activities to promote and protect human rights.”
Civic space in Vietnam is rated as closed by the CIVICUS Monitor, a tool that tracks the state of civil society in all countries.