November 29, 2011
In a victory for freedom of association in Vietnam, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has released an opinion finding the Government of Vietnam in violation of international law by arbitrarily detaining Ms. Tran Thi Thuy, Mr. Pham Van Thong, Pastor Duong Kim Khai, Mr. Cao Van Tinh, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Tam, Mr. Nguyen Chi Thanh and Ms. Pham Ngoc Hoa. All seven are members or supporters of Viet Tan who helped organize dispossessed farmers to protest against corruption and to spread public awareness about Chinese encroachment against Vietnamese territory. The UN Working Group called on the Government of Vietnam to immediately release and compensate these individuals.
In response to a petition filed by Viet Tan, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that the basis of the detention, Article 79 of the Vietnamese Penal Code which is typically used to imprison members of pro-democracy organizations, contravenes freedoms recognized under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. By detaining individuals who engaged in strictly nonviolent political activities, the Government of Vietnam violated their freedom of association and right to take part in the conduct of public affairs.
According to the UN Working Group, the Government of Vietnam also denied the seven activists a fair trial on May 30, 2011. Authorities denied the individuals a public hearing and restricted their right to communicate with counsel of their own choosing. Attorney Huynh Van Dong, who represented two of the defendants, was ejected from the courtroom when he tried to explain that distributing signs bearing the “HS.TS.VN” logo—which stands for Hoang Sa (Paracels), Truong Sa (Spratlys), Viet Nam—should not be considered subversive.
Viet Tan welcomes the ruling by the UN Working Group. We urge the United Nations to send a special rapporteur to Vietnam to press for the release of all individuals detained under Article 79 and other political charges.
The text of Opinion N. 46/2011, reached at the sixty-first session of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, is available at www.viettan.org/unwgad and will be published in the Working Group’s annual report to the UN Human Rights Council.
For recent articles about these seven individuals, visit www.viettan.org/freethemnow
Read more: Read the 2011 report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention by the UN Human Rights Council, which inclues Opinion N. 46/2011.