(VNRN) – Freedom House, a leading global human rights research and advocacy NGO, has joined with nine Vietnamese civil society organizations to call for the release of three activists imprisoned to lengthy terms on technical traffic violations, charges that have been called “bogus.” Other activists, however, conclude that Bui Thi Minh Hang, Nguyen Van Minh, and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh were arrested for their outspoken support for land-grab victims and political rights.
Freedom House, based in the U.S., has been active since 1941 when it was co-founded by Eleanor Roosevelt. Joining Freedom House are several Vietnam-based organizations: Civil Society Forum, United Workers-Farmers Organization of Vietnam, Association of Political & Religious Prisoners of Vietnam, Brotherhood for Democracy, No-U FC of Saigon, Hoa Hao Buddhist Church West Branch, Vietnam Path Movement, Aggrieved Citizens Struggle Alliance Movement and VOICE.
Their joint statement follows.
Call for Release of Vietnamese Human Rights Defenders
10 September 2014
On 26 August 2014, three activists in Vietnam were sentenced to long prison terms for “disturbing the public order.” Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang (DOB: 1964), an outspoken and long-time advocate for land-lost peasants and religious groups in Vietnam, along with Mr. Nguyen Van Minh (DOB: 1980) and Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh (DOB: 1986) who are both religious workers of the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, were arrested on 11 February 2014.
The 3 activists were among the 21 individuals who were beaten and detained while attempting to visit a fellow activist, human rights lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen who defends victims of forced evictions. As known human rights defenders, these activists were targets of regular government harassment and surveillance. Ms. Bui has been arrested and detained several times without trial, most recently resulting in a five-month detention in November 2011.
Following the 10-hour trial on 26 August, Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, while Mr. Nguyen Van Minh and Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh were sentenced to 2.5 and 2 years imprisonment, respectively. During the trial, 51 human rights defenders were arrested outside the court, some were beaten, and many were physically blocked from supporting the defendants in the area outside of the court. None of these individuals were allowed into the courtroom itself and the witnesses on behalf of the Defendants were prevented from taking part in the trial.
The procedures and results of the trial are emblematic of the on-going crackdown on human rights defenders that is taking place in Vietnam. We urge that the international community together with independent civil society members in Vietnam come together to call for the release of these peaceful activists and to demand that the Vietnamese government, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, uphold its international human rights obligations, including to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Civil Society Forum
United Workers-Farmers Organization of Vietnam
Association of Political & Religious Prisoners of Vietnam
Brotherhood for Democracy
No-U FC of Saigon
Hoa Hao Buddhist Church West Branch
Vietnam Path Movement
Aggrieved Citizens Struggle Alliance Movement