Rights Group Urges Vietnam to Free Prisoners of Conscience Amid COVID-19
04/06/2020 Vietnam (International Christian Concern) – A Vietnamese human rights group issued a statement calling on Vietnam’s government to free all prisoners of conscience to protect them from being infected with deadly COVID-19 as the disease increasingly spreads around the country.
On April 4, Defend the Defenders (DTD) issued a press release to highlight the potential risks faced by the prisoners of conscience given the poor conditions of prisons in the communist country. They are “one of the most vulnerable groups to Coronavirus infection as the severe prison conditions have weakened their immune system.”
DTD’s latest statistics show that Vietnam’s communist regime is holding at least 240 prisoners of conscience in severe conditions: being held in large numbers in small unhygienic cells without sunlight and windows, low-quality food, lack of proper medical services, many of them have been placed in solitary cells or beaten by prison guards or inmates for protesting inhumane treatment.
The statement said, “Releasing prisoners of conscience and allowing them to return with their families will help them avoid being infected with Coronavirus better than being held in the crowded detention facilities, and the government will reduce expenditures spending on maintaining detention facilities. It requests Vietnam’s authorities to improve living conditions in detention facilities to raise their health to help them better withstand diseases, especially the deadly COVID-19 while still keeping them in custody.”
Among the 240 prisoners of conscience, there are at least dozens of pastors, Hmong and, Montagnard Christians. Their sentences range from a few years to more than 10 years, while some have unknown charges. The notorious prison conditions could further threaten their well-being and health. The Vietnamese government should consider the release of them on humanitarian ground.
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