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Vietnam: Repression Intensifies Prior to Party Congress

ICC Note: Human Rights Watch notes the duplicitous Vietnamese Government still carrying out full scale persecution

1/28/09 Vietnam (Human Rights Watch) – This week’s convictions and heavy sentences for four Vietnamese democracy activists, including the prominent human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh, highlighted the climate of increasingly harsh political repression in Vietnam, Human Rights Watch said today after the release of its World Report 2010.

The 612-page World Report 2010, the organization’s 20th annual review of human rights practices around the globe, summarizes major human rights trends in more than 90 nations and territories worldwide. In Vietnam, the report says, the government arrested and imprisoned dozens of democracy activists linked to opposition parties, independent bloggers, land rights protesters, and members of unsanctioned religious organizations during 2009.

“With its treatment of peaceful critics, the Vietnamese government seems determined to stand out as one of the most repressive countries in Asia,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “We’d be thrilled if the Vietnamese government proved us wrong, but there are no signs that it will reverse its increasingly harsh crackdown on dissent.”

In the lead-up to a key Vietnamese Communist Party congress in 2011, Human Rights Watch is concerned that the Vietnamese government will intensify its campaign to silence government critics and curb social unrest in an effort to quell any potential challenges to its one-party rule.

Away from the public spotlight, in 2009, the police cracked down on farmers protesting land grabs in the Mekong Delta, on Catholic parishioners in central and northern Vietnam opposing government confiscation of church properties, and on Montagnard activists in the Central Highlands resisting government control of their churches.

The four activists just sentenced to prison – Le Cong Dinh, Nguyen Tien Trung, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, and Le Thang Long – were tried in Ho Chi Minh City on January 20 and 21 and received prison sentences ranging from five to 16 years. They were arrested during May and July for alleged links with the banned Democratic Party of Vietnam. They were accused of “colluding” with Vietnamese activists based abroad to create anti-government websites, post critical articles on the Internet, and incite social instability, and charged with attempting to overthrow the government under article 79 of Vietnam’s penal code. A fifth defendant, Tran Anh Kim, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison under article 79 on December 28.

On January 14 and 15, the Gia Lai provincial court sentenced two Montagnard Christians to prison, for nine and 12 years respectively, allegedly for organizing a “reactionary underground” network in violation of the country’s unity policy.

“Rights-respecting governments should speak up to protect peaceful activists and rights defenders in Vietnam and insist that the government abide by its international commitments,” Adams said. “Donors have been far too quiet about rights in recent years, but Vietnamese activists say that they will never succeed without consistent support from influential governments.”

Vietnamese courts sentenced at least 20 government critics and independent church activists to prison during 2009 on vaguely worded national security charges, according to the World Report. These include nine dissidents from Hanoi and Haiphong convicted in October for disseminating anti-government propaganda under penal code article 88. Their sentences are expected to be upheld in hearings before Vietnam’s Supreme Court this week even though the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined last year that five of the defendants had been detained arbitrarily.

Hundreds of other peaceful political and religious activists are serving long prison sentences in Vietnam. Religious freedom deteriorated during 2009, Human Rights Watch said. The government targeted religious leaders and their followers who advocated civil rights, religious freedom, and equitable resolution of land disputes.

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