Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Date: 28 July 2017
We are concerned about the intensifying crackdown against human rights defenders in Vietnam who have questioned or criticised the Government and its policies.
On Tuesday, a well-known activist, Tran Thi Nga, was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment and five years’ house arrest for so-called “anti-State propaganda” over comments posted online. We have serious concerns about the severity of the sentence and the conduct of the trial, which does not appear to have met due process standards. In accordance with provisions of article 88 of the Penal Code, Tran was kept in incommunicado detention for some six months, from her arrest in January until a few days before the trial. Tran was not allowed adequate time to prepare her defence, the trial lasted just one day and her family and friends were denied entry to the courtroom.
Tran Thi Nga’s sentence comes less than a month after another prominent blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a.k.a Mother Mushroom, was jailed for 10 years, also under article 88, following similarly flawed judicial proceedings.
Over the last six months, at least seven other human rights defenders have been arrested and face prosecution, several dozen are currently detained, and two have been deported or sent into exile abroad. Many others have been intimidated, harassed and brutally beaten. Human rights defenders should never be treated as criminals who are a threat to national security.
The UN Human Rights Office and international human rights mechanisms have repeatedly denounced article 88 of the Penal Code, along with several other provisions of the Code, as being in breach of international human rights law. The Vietnamese Government’s failure to address the concerns of the international community about restrictions on fundamental freedoms raises doubts about its commitment to protect and promote human rights.
We urge the Vietnamese authorities to immediately release all those detained in connection with their exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, and to amend the overly broad ill-defined laws that are used – under the pretext of national security – to crack down on dissent.
We are deeply concerned at the risk of further violence in Venezuela, where elections for the Constituent Assembly convened by President Nicolas Maduro are due to be held on Sunday.
The wishes of the Venezuelan people to participate or not in this election need to be respected. No one should be obliged to vote, while those willing to take part should be able to do so freely.
We urge the authorities to manage any protests against the Constituent Assembly in line with international human rights norms and standards, and we are thereforeconcerned that demonstrations the authorities regard as disturbing the elections have been banned from today until 1 August. We also call on those opposing the election and the Assembly to do so peacefully.
We hope that the poll scheduled for Sunday, if it goes ahead, will proceed peacefully and in full respect of human rights. To that end, we renew our appeal to the authorities to guarantee people’s rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and call on all in Venezuela to use only peaceful means to make themselves heard.
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