Acting Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Geneva, 3 August 2012, Ravina Shamdasani:
We are concerned by what appears to be increasingly limited space for freedom of expression in Viet Nam. Information that we have received indicates ongoing persecution of bloggers and people who use the Internet and other means to freely express their opinions.
In particular, we are concerned that the upcoming trial of Mr. Nguyen Van Hai (also known as Dieu Cay), Mr. Pan Thanh Hai and Ms. Ta Phong Tan for “conducting propaganda” against the State is directly linked to their legitimate exercise of freedom of expression, including their online publications about social and human rights issues.The three individuals face charges under Article 88 of the Criminal Code and could face penalties ranging from 7 to 16 years’ imprisonment. The trial, which was scheduled for 7 August and was just postponed indefinitely, will reportedly be closed and witnesses will not be called, raising concerns that the process will not comply with fair trial guarantees. Mr. Nguyen Van Hai and Mr. Pan Thanh Hai have been in detention since 2010 while Ms. Ta Phong Tan has been detained since September 2011.A number of arrests and harsh convictions in recent years suggest a disturbing trend of curbing freedom of expression, opinion and association of bloggers, journalists and human rights activists who question Government policies in a peaceful manner. On 16 July, for example, three land activists who had led a peaceful campaign against corruption and wrongdoing by local authorities against farmers were sentenced to jail terms of four to five years.

We urge the Government of Viet Nam to fulfill its commitments with respect to ensuring fair trial guarantees and to consider promptly releasing the accused for the exercise of their right to freedom of expression, opinion and association.

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