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Viet Nam: End convictions and deplorable detention conditions for human rights defenders, UN experts say

14 February 2024

GENEVA (14 February 2024) – UN experts today urged the Government of Viet Nam to stop targeting, convicting, and mistreating human rights defenders, after environmental human rights defender Dang Dinh Bách began his third hunger strike to protest against his detention conditions.

“We are extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of environmental human rights defender and lawyer Mr. Bách. On top of discrimination and differentiated treatment in detention, there are reports that Mr. Bách was being attacked and beaten up in custody,” the experts said.

Dang Dinh Bách is a human rights defender and community lawyer who has been a leader of the climate change movement in Vietnam, seeking a just transition from fossil fuels. He was arrested on 24 June 2021 and sentenced to five years in prison for “tax evasion pursuant to article 200 of the Criminal Code.” His sentence was confirmed by the Appeal Court on 11 August 2022.

We express our strong concern about the chilling effect that the mistreatment and deprivation of liberty of Mr Bách have on the fundamental freedoms of peaceful assembly and of expression in Vietnam, which are crucial for participation in public affairs, including in relation to climate change,” the experts said.

In its Opinion 22/2023, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded Dang Dinh Bách’s deprivation of liberty is arbitrary. He was kept incommunicado during his pretrial detention and following his sentencing, prosecuted in a closed trial, and not permitted adequate access to his lawyer.

Dang Dinh Bách is currently being detained eight hours away from his family in Prison No. 6 in Nghe An Province, in a wing reserved for political prisoners. Dang Dinh Bách depends on his family’s supplies to eat per his vegetarian diet and is therefore deprived of any other supplies such as books or hygiene items. He is also being denied access to hot water and traditional medicines. Communication and visits from his family and his lawyer are also restricted.

“Mr. Bách should not have to embark on a hunger strike to demand strict enforcement of laws and dignified prison conditions. Deprivation of liberty and mistreatment in prison should not be used as a tool by the Vietnamese government to silence human right defenders and civil society members working on sensitive issues,” the UN experts said.

“We strongly urge the Vietnamese authorities to stop mistreating Mr. Bách in detention and ensure his conditions and access are in accordance with Viet Nam’s international human rights obligations,” they said.

The experts have been in contact with the Government of Viet Nam on Decree No. 80/2020, restricting access to foreign aid, on the arbitrary arrest and deprivation of liberty of 18 human rights defenders, journalists and activists, long term detention and alleged arbitrary detention of 43 human rights defenders, and on the continued incarceration of Dang Ding Bach.

ENDS

*The experts: Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.; Mr. David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment; Mr. Marcos A. Orellana, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes; Ms. Priya Gopalan (Chair-Rapporteur), Mr. Matthew Gillett (Vice-Chair on Communications), Ms. Ganna Yudkivska (Vice-Chair on Follow-Up), Ms. Miriam Estrada-Castillo, and Mr. Mumba Malila - Working Group on arbitrary detention.

 

The UN Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Viet Nam

 

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