Sunday, April 29, 2007

Amnesty International protests crackdown

Amnesty International issued a press release April 24 protesting the political crackdown that has been underway in Vietnam since the APEC conference last November. It urged Vietnam to release on April 30 "all those arrested, detained and imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, to peaceful assembly and association, in accordance with Vietnam' s obligations under international law." It also urged Vietnam to repeal laws in its Criminal Code, such as Article 88, which do not conform to the rights of free expression guaranteed under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory.

Amnesty cited the March 30 trial of Fr. Nguyen Van Ly and his four co-defendants (see earlier reports in this blog), the first of several political trials expected to take place in coming months.

The first wave of arrests at the APEC conference were of leading members of the United Worker Farmer Organization (UNFO) which advocates for the right of Vietnamese to form and join independent trade unions. No charges have filed against them, but they are likely to be charged under Article 88 of Vietnam's Criminal Code, which prohibits spreading anti-government propaganda. Amnesty noted the arrest of dissident lawyers, including:

- Le Quoc Quan, who had been in the U.S. on a five-month fellowship from the National Endowment for Democracy, studying the role of civil society in emerging democracies. He was arrested in March, just a few days after his return to Vietnam and is presently imprisoned in Hanoi. He has been charged with attempting to overthrow the government under Article 79 of Vietnam's Criminal Code; the maximum penalty for this offense is the death penalty.

- Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Ngan. As noted in earlier entries here, these two lawyers near Hanoi had been working together in representing dissidents before the court and have been under arrest since March. Both belong to the outlawed opposition group, the Progression Party.

- Bui Thi Kim Thanh, a land rights activist who was forcibly admitted to the Bien Hoa mental hospital outside Ho Chi Minh City, apparently for her involvement with the dissident Democratic Party.

The press release listed 23 dissidents arrested since November, most of them affiliated with dissident organizations, such as the Democratic Party of Vietnam, UNFO, Progression Party and Bloc 8406.

Source: Amnesty International press release, April 24.


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