United Nations officials are concerned that three Vietnamese activists detained this month under national security laws may have been subjected to torture.
The UN human rights office for South-East Asia expressed serious concern about the arrest of the activists, and called for their immediate release.
The well-known blogger, Ho Van Hai, was detained on November 3 and charged with distributing anti-state propaganda, under Article 88 of the penal code.
Three days later, Luu Van Vinh and Nguyen Van Duc Do, were picked up in police raids in Ho Chi Minh City, and later charged with activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration. The charge, under article 79 of the penal code carries a possible death sentence or imprisonment of between 12 years and life.
The two activists had recently formed an organisation to promote human rights and democracy, which they called the Coalition of Self-determined Vietnamese People.
The UN human rights office said it was concerned that the three campaigners had been held incommunicado since their arrests, denied access even to lawyers and family members.
It said it was troubled by reports that they had been tortured during interrogation.
The UN’s human rights body raised the alarm about possible torture against dissidents in Vietnam earlier this year, stating that the practice of keeping political detainees in isolation made them extremely vulnerable to physical and mental abuse.
“These two penal provisions, along with other similar articles dealing with so-called National Security offences, run contrary to international human rights standards and should be repealed,” said Laurent Meillan, the acting regional representative of the UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia.
“Vietnam should conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into allegations of torture,” he added.
The Communist authorities have extended their crackdown on independent bloggers and other critics this year, subjecting many to intimidation and physical assault, and others to formal charges that have led to lengthy prison terms.