GENEVA (23 December 2021) – UN human rights experts* are appalled by the conviction and long-term sentencing in Viet Nam this week of four prominent human rights defenders and journalists who were accused of spreading anti-State propaganda.
The sentences against Do Nam Truong, Trinh Ba Phoung, Nguyen Thi Tam and independent author Pham Doan Trang stemmed from their continuous advocacy and reporting on human rights and land rights in Viet Nam.
“The four human rights defenders are only the latest victims of the authorities’ campaign to silence, intimidate and persecute writers, journalists and human rights defenders using vaguely defined propaganda laws,” the experts said.
“The arrest, detention, prosecution, conviction and harsh sentencing of individuals simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression to report on human rights issues is an arbitrary deprivation of liberty under international human rights law.”
Earlier, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that the deprivation of liberty of Pham Doan Trang is arbitrary and violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
UN experts also expressed deep concern about the upcoming trial on 31 December of Le Trong Hung, an independent journalist who was arrested shortly after he announced his intention to run as an independent candidate for the 2021 political elections in Viet Nam. He has been charged for “anti-State propaganda” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code and faces up to 20 years in jail.
“We respectfully call on the authorities to release Ms. Pham Doan Trang, Mr. Trinh Ba Phuong, Ms. Nguyen Thi Tam, Mr. Do Nam Truong and Mr. Le Trong Hung.”
Pham Doan Trang, Trinh Ba Phuong and Nguyen Thi Tam were arrested in 2020 and held in what appears to be arbitrary pre-trial detention for more than a year without access to lawyers or family members. Le Trong Hung was arrested in March, and Do Nam Truong in July 2021; both had also been held arbitrarily in pre-trial detention, without access to lawyers or family.
“As we have said many times before, Article 88 of the 1999 Criminal Code and Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code, under which the human rights defenders were sentenced, are vaguely defined and violate international human rights norms on freedom of opinion and expression and of association” the experts said. “We reiterate our call to the government to carefully reconsider and repeal all such overbroad and vague provisions.”
“Using such laws to detain, prosecute and harshly punish human rights defenders and civil society members, who are working for a freer and more just society, is an attempt not only to silence these individuals and organizations but also to impose a climate of fear leading to self-censorship and inhibiting others from speaking out and cooperating with the United Nations human rights and other mechanisms.”
The Special Rapporteurs are in contact with the authorities on this matter.