Special rapporteurs intervene for “Mother Mushroom”

The blogger has been held in isolation for five months after becoming involved in the environmental campaign last year

Five special rapporteurs of the UN’s Human Rights Council have contacted the Vietnamese government to urge the release of the blogger, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who’s better known as Me Nam or Mother Mushroom.

They expressed grave concern that she was being detained for exercising her right to freedom of expression on a matter of public interest.

The unusual intervention comes as the blogger and human rights activist continues to be held in isolation, without access to her family or lawyers, five months after her arrest on charges of spreading anti-state propaganda.

“We fear for her physical and psychological integrity, and denounce the violations of her fundamental right to due process,” said the rapporteurs in a statement.

There was no word on how the Vietnamese government responded to the appeal, the latest in a series of protests from international groups at Ms Quynh’s detention.

The statement was signed by John Knox, Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations related to the environment; Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the right to free assembly; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of hazardous waste disposal.

Courage and perseverance

Ms Quynh had blogged extensively about the dumping of toxic chemicals off the north-central coast last year, which caused the death of 100 tonnes of fish and decimated the local fishing industry.

Some activists believe she was detained because she demanded government accountability over the disaster, which has led to sporadic protests by fishermen and their sympathisers in major cities.

The UN experts noted that she had faced persistent harassment for eight years before her arrest, suffering frequent travel bans, physical assaults and threats.

“As an environmental human rights defender, Mother Mushroom should be honoured for her courage and perseverance in defending the environment and human rights for years without fear,” they said.

“Bloggers such as Ms. Quynh help to ensure that the public has access to information about environmental threats that affect their health and well-being. Her prolonged detention sends a negative signal to the public that their right to information is not respected”.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also appealed for her release shortly after her arrest last October.