Viet Nam: arbitrary arrest of 18 human rights defenders, journalists and activists (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to the Government of Viet Nam on 2 November 2022. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. Regrettably, the Government did not reply within this time frame. If a reply is received it will be posted on the UN Special Procedures communications database.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication

BACKGROUND

Topic: alleged arbitrary arrest of 18 human rights defenders, journalists and activists for ostensibly exercising their right to freedom of expression and opinion and, in some cases, alleged torture and ill-treatment during pretrial detention.

ALLEGATIONS

1. Mr. Nguyễn Lân Thắng

Mr. Nguyen Lan Thang is an independent journalist and activist. As a citizen journalist, Mr. Thang has documented peaceful demonstrations on human rights issues and has been an active advocate for human rights promotion and civil society development.

On 5 July 2022, Mr. Thang was arrested by the Investigation Bureau of the Hanoi Police on charges of “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam”, under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code. It is unknown if he was properly presented with the arrest warrant.

On the same day, the Police visited Mr. Thang’s house, presented a search warrant to his family, and informed them that Mr. Thang had been arrested. The Police searched the house, and confiscated various items: laptops, flycams, cameras, SIM cards, hard drives, all the books on politics, and personal documents, including from his family members. To date, the items have not been returned.

Since his arrest, Mr. Thang has been in Detention Center No. 1 in the Tu Liem District of Hanoi. He has not been permitted to receive any family visits, nor meet with his lawyers. Although Mr. Thang suffers from asthma and digestive diseases, the request from his family to deliver medicines is yet to be approved.

2. Mr. Bui Tuan Lam

Mr. Bui Tuan Lam is a human rights activist and street vendor who runs a beef noodle stall in the city of Da Nang, Hai Chau district.

On 7 September 2022, Mr. Lam was arrested on charges of “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code. Mr. Lam was accused of creating and posting online content deemed to distort the guidelines and policies of the Communist Party of Viet Nam.

On 16 November 2021, just a few days after posting a video on his Facebook account where he made a parody of the Turkish celebrity chef Nusret Gökçe serving food to the Vietnamese Minister for Public Security, Mr. Lam was summoned at his home and questioned by Police. The video, which became viral in Viet Nam, was perceived as mocking the Minister of Public Security, who was earlier caught on camera eating a $2,000-worth gold-encrusted steak at Gökçe’s restaurant in London, raising doubts on the Minister’s affordability of the meal due to the modest official salaries and the ongoing anti-corruption campaign in Viet Nam.

It is unclear whether Lam has been arrested specifically for the parody video. According to Police, Mr. Lam is also a member of many “civil society organizations” considered as anti-State and anti-Party groups. If convicted, Mr. Lam could receive a sentence up to 20 years in prison.

3. Mr. Dang Dang Phuoc

Mr. Dang Dang Phuoc is a music lecturer at Dak Lak Education Institute, resident in Dak Lak province, who frequently shares posts on his Facebook account regarding Viet Nam’s political and social issues, including human rights violations.

On 7 September 2022, Mr. Phuoc commented the arrest of Mr. Lam through a Facebook post criticizing the Police mistreatment of the activist.

On 8 September 2022, the Police searched Mr. Phuoc’s house and arrested him on charges of “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code.

According to State media, since 2019 Mr. Phuoc has reportedly taken advantage of the social network Facebook to compile and publish articles and videos with content distorting and opposing the Socialist State of Viet Nam. Authorities have repeatedly asked Mr. Phuoc to cease violating the law, but Mr. Phuoc reportedly failed to comply.

Currently, Mr. Phuoc’s case is under investigation by the Investigation Security Agency and Dak Lak Provincial Police. If convicted, Mr. Phuoc could receive a sentence up to 20 years in prison.

4. Mr. Trương Châu Hữu Danh

Mr. Trương Châu Hữu Danh is a Vietnamese journalist, born in 1982. He worked for a State-owned newspaper prior to founding his independent journalism platform “Báo Sạch”, in 2019. Mr. Danh is well known for his advocacy against corruption, through the publication of articles, on social media and journalism platforms, regarding corruption cases reportedly involving Government officials.

On 4 September 2018, while he was still working as a journalist at Nông thôn Ngày nay Newspaper, a group of unidentified men came to Mr. Danh’s house and threatened his family to compel Mr. Danh to immediately remove all his posts about the misconduct by the government in Quảng Trị Province. The next day, having refused to delete his posts, Mr. Danh was subjected to threats and intimidation. He received a phone call (from number 01212478994) threatening to cut his head off, and a dead dog’s head was sent to his house, as a form of intimidation.

On 14 January 2019, at around 2 pm, the police, security officers and masked men cordoned the vehicles of Mr. Danh and other activists, who were conducting an investigation into a potential case of State corruption in Bình Tân District. They were left in a dead-end alley overnight without food. The next morning, the security forces released them after the imposition of administrative fines on Mr. Danh and the other activists accusing them of parking their cars illegally causing a traffic jam.

From May to October 2020, Mr. Danh led a media campaign denouncing violations of due process principles and challenging decisions made by the Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court, who was the head of the prosecutor’s office. In this context, Mr. Danh published numerous articles on social media platforms exposing alleged suspicious assets of the Communist Party Secretary in Binh Duong province and denouncing the Party Secretary in Đăk Lăk Province. His articles reportedly received increased attention from the public.

On 17 December 2020, Mr. Danh was informed by his Bank that money was withdrawn from his account by mistake requiring him to visit the Cần Thơ branch. Upon arrival, the police arrested him without presenting an arrest warrant.

On the same day, the media reported that the Security Investigation Agency of Cần Thơ Police filed criminal charges against Mr. Danh and arrested him on accusations of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals” under article 331 of the 2015 Criminal Code. Consequently, the police arrested four other members of Báo Sạch.

In May 2021, the Security Investigation Agency of Cần Thơ Police indicted Mr. Danh for using corruption cases for personal financial gains and for causing social disorder. During the investigation process, the Cần Thơ Police instructed investigations in Bình Phước, Quảng Ninh, Đắk Nông, Bắc Ninh, Quảng Trị, Ninh Bình, Khánh Hòa, Thanh Hóa, and Phú Yên districts.

In August 2021, the Cần Thơ Police finished the investigation process and charged Mr. Danh and other members of Báo Sạch with “abusing democratic freedoms which violates the interests of the state”. Since his arrest and throughout investigations, Mr. Danh was denied family visitation rights. He was further held in solitary confinement for the first four months in poor conditions.

In October 2021, the People’s Court of first instance in Thới Lai Town, Cần Thơ City, held the first court hearing. On 26 December 2021, Mr. Danh and the four other members of Báo Sạch were convicted, and Mr. Danh was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment. This sentence was confirmed by the appellate Court, in January 2022.

Mr. Danh is currently held in Long Tuyền Detention Center, in Cần Thơ City. He was reportedly interrogated by the police for another set of criminal charges. It is feared that Mr. Danh may be facing additional criminal charges for leaking State secrets, carrying a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

5. Mr. Bui Van Thuan

Mr. Bui Van Thuan is a social media activist and member of the Brotherhood for Democracy (BFD) since 2013. He has a Facebook page entitled “Cha Dà Dân Tộc,” which is a wordplay on “Cha Già Dân Tộc” (Father of the Nation, i.e. Ho Chi Minh), where he posts news and jokes critical of the Communist Party and the corruption of the Government. He has also been criticising the Government policies in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

In June 2017, together with other activists, he founded a group called Legal Research with the aim of designing a new “democratic model” for Vietnam, and in October 2017, he joined the BFD Communication group, in charge of Facebook and Fan Page’s administration.

On 30 August 2021, around 8 AM, a number of police officers in uniform and plainclothes surrounded Mr. Thuan’s house, and three men in medical protective clothing entered to allegedly perform COVID testing. Once inside, they went to Mr. Thuan’s bedroom, arrested him with handcuffs and read him an arrest warrant. During the arrest, security officers confiscated electronic devices from Mr. Thuan’s house.

In October 2021, Cau Cao Detention Center officials notified Mr. Thuan’s family that he was admitted to the Thanh Hoa Princivial hospital, suffering from gout and liver infection and that he was detained pending investigation on charges of “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code.

Since his arrest, Mr. Thuan has been denied family visitation rights, despite multiple requests submitted by the family.

6. Le Anh Hung

Mr. Le Anh Hung is a member of the Independent Journalist Association of Viet Nam (IJAVN) and human rights defender. He was a prominent contributor to the Voice of America (VOA) Vietnamese service until his arrest on 5 July 2018. Mr. Hung was the subject of a previous communication sent by Special Procedures mandate holders on 17 September 2020 (AL VNM 3/2020).

Mr. Hung was arrested on 5 July 2018 on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms” under article 331 of the 2015 Criminal Code.

In 2019, Mr Hung was transferred to psychiatric hospital multiple times, to be evaluated and forced-fed after hunger strikes. He was then forcibly committed to a psychiatric hospital from May 2019 to May 2022. His mother saw him in December 2019, at the hospital. He reported receiving high doses of anti-psychotic medications. The family has not been given information on the grounds for which Mr. Hung has been committed to psychiatric hospital, except that he was on hunger strike. Prior to this, on the occasions that Mr. Hung’s mother and lawyer have been able to visit him, in October 2018 and January 2019, they reported him to be in good health and spirit. According to his mother and associates, he did not suffer from mental illness prior to his arrest.

Family visitation rights have been denied on multiple occasions, both when he was detained in prison and when he was committed to medical institutions.

Mr. Hung was transferred back to prison from hospital, and on 30 August 2022, he underwent his first instance trial. Neither his lawyer nor his family were informed about the trial. Reportedly, the Court did not inform them since Mr. Hung refused to have a defense counsel. Mr. Hung was sentenced to five years in prison.

Neither Mr. Hung’s family nor lawyer have seen him since he was in hospital before his and remain seriously concerned abouthis mental and physical health.

7. Ms. Can Thi Theu and Mr. Trinh Ba Tu

Ms. Can Thi Theu and Mr. Trinh Ba Tu are land rights activist and human rights defenders in Viet Nam. Ms. Theu and Mr. Tu were the subjects of previous communications sent by Special Procedures mandate holders on 22 November 2021 (AL VNM 6/2021) and 10 November 2020 (VNM 5/2020). Furthermore, Ms. Theu was the subject of the WGAD Opinion 2017/79 (A/HRC/WGAD/2017/79), which found her detention arbitrary, urged your Excellency’s Government to immediately take steps to remedy the situation of Ms. Theu to bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, including by releasing her immediately, especially in light of her health condition, and to ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary detention.

On 5 May 2021, they were sentenced to eight years imprisonment followed by three years of probation on charges of “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code. Both of them have been detained in Hoa Binh Detention Center, in Thong Nhat ward, Hoa Binh city, reportedly held in solitary confinement and denied visitation rights since May 2021. On 24 December 2021, the appeal court upheld the sentence against them.

On 22 February 2022, Ms. Theu was moved to Camp 5 in Thanh Hoa Province, and Mr. Tu was moved to Camp 6 in Nghe An Province, hundreds of kilometres away from their families. Since March 2022, she has been allowed to receive family visitations.

Ms. Theu has been suffering from an eye infection due to poor detention condition, placed in a cell with no proper ventilation, or sufficient water, in extreme heat.

Mr. Tu suffered from physical sequels, including kidney contusions, due to the alleged brutal beating during his arrest by Hoa Binh police.

On 6 September 2022, after writing a denunciation letter, Mr. Trinh Ba Tu was reportedly taken to a room in Detention Center No.6 and beaten by prison guards for 4 to 6 hours. Mr. Tu was then put in solitary confinement with shackles for ten days and was later transferred to the criminal area of Center No. 6. After the beating, Mr. Tu reportedly went on hunger strike.

On 5 October and 15 October 2022, Mr. Tu’s father travelled 300 km to visit his son in prison, but he was denied visitation rights twice by prison authorities.

8. Mr. Trinh Ba Phuong

Mr. Trinh Ba Phuong is a land rights defender. Mr. Phuong was the subject of previous communications sent by Special Procedures mandate holders (AL VNM 6/2021, and AL VNM 5/2020).

On 15 December 2021, Mr. Phuong was convicted and sentenced to ten years imprisonment followed by five years of probation on charges of “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code. The sentence was confirmed by the appeal court on 17 August 2022. His relatives were not allowed to attend the trial and were reportedly subjected to harassment and physical violence by plainclothes security forces outside the court.

On 24 August 2022, Mr. Phuong was allowed to receive the first family visit since his arrest. For almost two years, he was detained in solitary confinement and denied family visitation rights, despite multiple requests submitted by the family.

Mr. Trinh Ba Phuong has now been transferred to An Diem prison, about 1000 Km from his home. In September 2022, his family visited him in prison and reported that the long distance between their home and An Diem made the visit more difficult and costly.

9. Ms. Nguyen Thi Tam

Ms. Nguyen Thi Tam is a woman human rights defender and land rights activist. Ms. Tam was the subject of previous communications by Special Procedures mandate holders (AL VNM 6/2021) and (AL VNM 5/2020).

On 15 December 2021, Ms. Tam was convicted and sentenced to six years imprisonment followed by three years of probation on charges of “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code. She was allowed to meet her lawyers only after the investigation period. The appeal court confirmed the sentence on 17 August 2022. Her relatives were not allowed to enter the courtroom.

On 24 August 2022, Ms. Tam was allowed to receive the first family visit since her arrest. She was denied family visitation and not allowed to receive her prescribed medication. She has further been denied acupuncture treatment for the ligament pain that she suffers from due to a motorcycle injury several years earlier.

On 21 September 2022, Ms. Tam transferred to Gia Trung Prison, about 1,200 km from her hometown.

10. Ms. Pham Doan Trang

Ms. Pham Doan Trang is an author, blogger, journalist, publisher, and democracy activist. She received the Martin Ennals Award in June 2022. Ms. Trang was the subject of several previous communications by Special Procedures mandate holders (AL VNM 3/2020; AL VNM 5/2020, and AL VNM 6/2021), and an opinion by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (A/HRC/WGAD/2021/40), which found her deprivation of liberty arbitrary; urged your Excellency’s Government to immediately take steps to remedy the situation of Ms. Trang to bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, including by releasing her immediately, and to ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary detention.

On 3 December 2021, Ms. Trang was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code. The sentence was confirmed in appeal on 25 August 2022. In both trials, her family was not allowed inside the courtroom.

Ms. Trang was held incommunicado in Detention Center N1 Hoa Lo, in Hanoi, without access to a lawyer or her family since the date of her arrest. On 18 October 2021, a year after her arrest, Ms. Trang was allowed to meet with her lawyer for the first time. She was held in solitary confinement for over a year and a half.

During detention, her right to family visitation has been systematically denied, despite eleven requests by her family. On 7 September 2022, Ms. Trang was allowed to meet her mother and brother for the first time since her arrest in October 2020.

On 1 October 2022, without any prior notification to her family, Ms. Trang was transferred to An Phuoc prison, in Binh Duong province. Ms Trang’s family was allowed to visit her and bring supplies, including her guitar, on 12 October 2022. Her relatives reported Ms. Trang’s health had deteriorated: her legs were swollen to the point she could not walk by herself but needed to be transported in an electric chair by a prison official.

Ms. Trang is suffering from several health conditions, including anterior cruciate ligament rupture, menorrhagia, anaemia, low blood pressure, and urinary tract infection. She is allegedly not receiving adequate health care in detention.

11. Ms. Nguyen Thuy Hanh

Ms. Nguyen Thuy Hanh is a human rights defender. Ms. Hanh was the subject of a previous communication by Special Procedures mandate holders, sent on 22 November 2021 (AL VNM 6/2021), to which your Excellency’s Government is yet to respond.

On 7 April 2021, Ms. Hanh was arrested on charges of “making, storing, or spreading information, materials, or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code. Her first instance trial is still pending.

Ms. Hanh has been held incommunicado at pre-trial detention centre No. 2 in Hanoi, denied all contact with the outside world, including her lawyer and family. This latter is, however, permitted to bring her antidepressants and other supplies.

At the time of her arrest, Ms. Hanh suffered depression, for which she was pursuing medical treatment. She was reportedly admitted to a psychiatric hospital for medical assessment from 7 December 2021 to 7 January 2022, and then again in April 2022.

On 7 May 2022, Ms. Hanh was able to receive the first family visit, while still at the psychiatric hospital where she is undergoing compulsory medical treatment for depression and insomnia. Ms. Hanh reported having spent 13 months in harsh detention conditions and having attempted to commit suicide many times.

12. Mr. Do Nam Trung

Mr. Do Nam Trung is a social media activist and human rights defender, focussing on press freedom, human rights and democracy. Mr. Trung was the subject of a previous communication by Special Procedures mandate holders, sent on 1 November 2021 (AL VNM 4/2021), to which your Excellency’s Government is yet to respond.

On 6 July 2021, Hanoi Police arrested Mr. Trung on charges of “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code. Mr. Trung was allowed to meet with his lawyer for the first time on 11 November 2021.

On 16 December 2021, he was convicted and sentenced to ten years imprisonment for conducting anti-State propaganda. An appeal is currently pending.

On 26 May 2022, Mr. Trung was transferred from the Nam Dinh Prison to Thanh Hoa Province’s Prison Camp 5, located 200 kilometers away from his home. In May 2022, his family was allowed to visit Mr. Trung in prison for the first time. Trung was reported to be in good health, despite having pre-existing health conditions such as anxity and ulcers.

13. Mr. Dinh Van Hai

Mr. Dinh Van Hai is a human rights defender and social media activist, focussing on human rights, land, and environmental rights. Mr. Hai was the subject of a previous communication by Special Procedures mandate holders, sent on 1 November 2021 (AL VNM 4/2021), to which your Excellency’s Government is yet to respond.

On 7 October 2021, Lam Dong and Ba Ria Police arrested Mr. Hai on charges of “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code. Mr. Hai was reportedly transferred to Mat Detention Center at Da Lat City, in Lam Dong Province, for pre-trial detention.

On 22 February 2022, the Lam Dong Provincial Police informed Mr. Hai’s family that he was admitted to the hospital for being severely ill and gave them his room number. However, when his family attempted to visit him, they were refused entry due to COVID-19 restrictions. Subsequently, the police contacted the family once more indicating that Mr. Hai’s health has stabilised and that he was transferred back to the Detention Center.

On 26 April 2022, Mr. Hai was sentenced to five years in prison. Throughout his detention, Mr. Hai was denied all visits by his family, despite multiple requests. To date, he has not been able to see his family.

14. Mr. Lê Trọng Hùng

Mr. Lê Trọng Hùng is an independent journalist and the founder of the independent news channel “Chấn hưng Việt Nam TV” (CHTV). Mr. Hùng was the subject of a previous communication by Special Procedures mandate holders, sent on 1 November 2021 (AL VNM 4/2021), to which your Excellency’s Government is yet to respond.

On 14 March 2021, Mr. Hùng announced, through his Facebook page, that he was running as an independent candidate in the National Assembly elections.

On 27 March 2021, Mr. Hùng was arrested on charges “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code. Mr. Hùng was allowed to meet with his lawyer for the first time on 22 November 2021.

On 31 December 2021, in a trial that reportedly lasted only four hours, Mr. Hùng was sentenced to five years imprisonment followed by five years of probation Despite Mr. Hùng’s requests, he was denied a pen and paper to write his appeal application, which caused him to miss the deadline for the appeal.

On 19 April 2022, the appellate court upheld Mr. Hung’s five-year sentence. Neither Mr. Hung’s family nor his lawyer were notified about the trial. On 22 April 2022, Mr. Hung was allowed to meet his family for the first time since his arrest. Mr. Hùng reported that his sight has been deteriorating. His family has been further subjected to harassment and intimidation by security officers.

On 25 May 2022, Mr. Hung was transferred to Nghe An Prison No. 6, far away from his hometown. His family was not informed about the transfer but was able to visit him in June 2022.

15. Mr. Lê Văn Dũng

Mr. Lê Văn Dũng, also known as Le Dung Vova, is a freelance journalist. Mr. Dũng was the subject of a previous communication by Special Procedures mandate holders, sent on 1 November 2021 (AL VNM 4/2021).

On 30 June 2021, Mr. Dũng was arrested in Ung Hoa District, in Hanoi City, on charges of “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code. He was transferred to Detention Center N1. On 20 January 2022, Mr. Dũng was allowed to meet with his lawyer.

On 23 March 2022, in a two-hour trial, Hanoi People’s Court sentenced Mr. Dung to five years in prison and five years on probation. Mr. Dung’s family was not allowed inside the courtroom. This sentence was confirmed in appeal, on 16 August 2022.

On 25 August 2022, Mr. Dung’s wife was able to visit him in prison for the first time since his arrest.

16. Mr. Trần Quốc Khánh

Mr. Trần Quốc Khánh is a social media activist. Mr. Khánh was the subject of a previous communication by Special Procedures mandate holders, sent on 1 November 2021 (AL VNM 4/2021).

On 6 March 2021, Mr. Khánh announced in a Livestream on his personal Facebook page that he would run as an independent candidate in the National Assembly elections. On 10 March 2021, he was arrested by the Ninh Binh province authorities, on accusations of “making, storing, or spreading information, materials or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam”, and was detained in Binh Son Detention Center, Yen Mo District, Ninh Binh province.

On 28 October 2021, he sentenced to six years and six months imprisonment followed by two years of probation. This sentence was confirmed in appeal on 17 February 2022. Mr. Khánh was denied his right to defence during trial, with his lawyer and family being denied entry to the room and has only recently had the right to family visitation.

Mr. Khánh reportedly suffers from high blood pressure, severe gout and stomach pain, and mental stress.

17. Mr. Lê Chí Thành

Mr. Lê Chí Thành is a former police officer in Camp Z30D in Tan Duc commune, Ham Tan district, the largest prison camp in Vietnam. In July 2020, he was dismissed from his job for denouncing alleged corruption and wrongdoing by prison management. Mr. Thành was the subject of a previous communication by Special Procedures mandate holders, sent on 1 November 2021 (AL VNM 4/2021).

On 14 April 2021, Mr. Thành was arrested on charges of “resisting a law enforcement officer in the performance of his/her official duties” under article 330 of the 2015 Criminal Code, in connection with a stop and search by the traffic police of Thu Duc City, in March 2021, where he was accused of not having car registration papers and driving in the wrong lane.

During his pre-trial detention, Mr. Thành was allegedly subjected to torture. He was beaten and hung by his arms and legs for seven days. As a result, he sustained injuries in his hands and feet. Photographs from his trial show that his fingers were black and that he could not stand upright. In addition, he is reportedly suffering from scabies. He did not receive treatment for his injuries.

On 14 January 2022, Mr. Thành was sentenced to two years imprisonment. During the trial, Mr. Thành informed the judge about his alleged torture in detention, but no investigation was instructed. After the announcement of the sentence, the prosecution added the new charge of “abusing democratic freedoms” under article 331 of the 2015 Criminal Code. The initial sentence was confirmed in the appeal trial on 13 April 2022, and another trial date would be set for the new charges added by the prosecution.

On 22 June 2022, Mr. Thành was sentenced to an additional three years in prison on charging of “abusing democratic freedoms”. According to the indictment, Mr. Thanh had used his social media accounts to publish videos and posts that defamed his former supervisor and another colleague.

Since his arrest and detention, Mr. Thành was denied family visitation rights. Despite several requests, and an attempt to convince the detention centre’s administration, his family has been systematically denied access.

CONCERNS

In the communication, we express our serious concern about the apparent systematic violations of the fundamental human rigts of human rights defenders, journalists and activists, through alleged arbitrary arrest, detention, unfair trials and criminal convictions, in relation to the mere exercise of their right to freedom of expression and opinion. These allegations, if confirmed, constitute blatant violations of international human rights law, in particular articles 9, 14, 19, 25 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), acceded to by Viet Nam on 24 September 1982.

We are further alarmed by the violations of the above mentioned individuals’ rights, notably the reported prolonged incommunicado detention, including in solitary confinement, denial of due process rights including the right to defence, to be promptly brought before a judge and to contest the legality of their detention, in addition to allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

We would like to reiterate our previously detailed concerns about the vague legal provisions, such as “propaganda against the State” (article 117 of the Criminal Code) or “abusing democratic freedoms” (article 331 of the Criminal Code), used to criminalise the free expression of opinion.

It is further reported that the abovementioned cases are part of a wider pattern of judicial persecution of social media activists and human rights defenders in Viet Nam, which is exacerbated when they engage with the UN in the field of human rights. As highlighted in the 2021 report of the Secretary-General on cooperation with the UN, multiple UN actors have addressed alleged surveillance, cyber-attacks, intimidation, passport confiscation, arbitrary arrest and detention, and heavy sentencing against those who cooperate or attempt to cooperate with the UN. There is concern that this contributes to an environment of fear leading to self-censorship and deterring others from cooperating or sharing information with the UN (A/HRC/48/28, para. 129, and Annex I, para. 123).

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