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Press briefing note on Viet Nam, CAR and Burundi

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Location:  Geneva
Date: 14 October 2016
Subject:   (1) Viet Nam, (2) CAR and (3) Burundi

(1) Viet Nam

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday expressed concern about a growing crackdown by the Viet Nam Government on human rights defenders, including the arrest this week of popular blogger and Government critic Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known online as Mother Mushroom.

Quynh was arrested on Monday in the central province of Khanh Hoa under Article 88 of the Penal Code, which prohibits “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.” The crime is deemed a national security offence and carries a sentence of up to 20 years in jail. Under the Vietnamese criminal procedural code dealing with the investigation of so-called national security offences, Quynh can be detained incommunicado for at least four months.

“Article 88 effectively makes it a crime for any Vietnamese citizen to enjoy the fundamental freedom to express an opinion, to discuss or to question the Government and its policies,” said Zeid. “The overly broad, ill-defined scope of this law makes it all too easy to quash any kind of dissenting views and to arbitrarily detain individuals who dare to criticize Government policies.”

Zeid said incommunicado detention for such an extended period of time – particularly without access to family members and to legal counsel – is conducive to torture and may amount to torture itself, in violation of the Convention against torture (CAT), which Viet Nam ratified in February 2015.

“I urge the Government of Viet Nam to abide by its obligations under human rights law, to drop these charges against Ms. Quynh and to release her immediately,” the High Commissioner added.

The full press release is available here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20679&LangID=E

(2) CAR

We urge all armed groups in the Central African Republic to exercise utmost restraint in the wake of an escalation of violence in Kaga Bandoro, in the north of the country over the past month.

There have been a number of worrying incidents since 12 September, including attacks against civilians, and acts of violence against NGO premises and the private homes of humanitarian staff in Kaga Bandoro. The worst incident took place on Wednesday, when several hundred ex-Seleka members attacked the Evêché camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) as well as the Prefect’s office and the MINUSCA camp*. In addition to 18 civilians and 12 ex-Seleka members who were killed, many more were injured, houses and offices were torched and looted and IDPs forced to flee.

We call upon all armed groups and political leaders, as well as those with influence over them in the country, to ensure that there is no further escalation in violence. There must be individual, judicial accountability for those responsible for the violence over the past month. We appeal to all armed groups to participate fully in the Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Rehabilitation process that is a crucial step towards lasting peace in the country. We also call on the Government to ensure an inclusive political space where the concerns of all communities are given due regard and long-standing grievances are not left to fester.

(3) Burundi

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein received the Ambassador of Burundi here in Geneva yesterday to express his serious concern at the decision of the Government to suspend all forms of cooperation with our Office pending renegotiation of our host county agreement on the mandate and activities of our Office in Burundi. He stressed that for the last 20 years, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Burundi had been providing independent monitoring and valuable assistance to strengthen national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country. High Commissioner Zeid invited the authorities to reconsider their decision.

The High Commissioner also deeply regrets the decision of the Government of Burundi to declare persona non grata the three independent experts who worked on the UN independent investigation on Burundi established by the Human Rights Council. He urged the authorities to continue to engage constructively with all UN human rights mechanisms.

ENDS

* MINUSCA is the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org), Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org ) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

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