Resolution on Vietnam submitted by Suisse Romand PEN Centre and seconded by Swiss German PEN Centre and Swiss Italian and Reto-Romansh PEN Centre
VIETNAM: Vietnam remains of great concern: It continues to suppress the right to freedom of expression and opinion, through application of liberticidal articles of its Penal Code, in particular, Article 88 ‘’Propaganda against the State’’ providing sentences of up to 20 years in prison and Article 258 ‘‘Abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the State interests’’, up to 7 years in prison. Print and audiovisual media, Internet and publishing houses are under strict State control and subject to severe censorship.
There is flagrant restriction on freedom to seek, receive and impart information, in particular relating to accountability for human rights violations, corruption and social injustice. Several writers, journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders have been victims of harassment, physical aggression, arbitrary arrest, police brutality and torture, lengthy pre-trial detention, unfair trial and heavy prison sentences. In forced labour camps, prisoners refusing to plead guilty or engaging in hunger strike to protest inhuman detention conditions are held in solitary confinement and/or incommunicado. Gravely sick prisoners are denied their right to receive adequate medical treatment and family visits. Some have been attacked by common law detainees. Released prisoners are placed under house arrest as part of the probationary detention for up to 5 years.
Shocked and indignant by the alarming state of health and inhuman detention conditions of the most urgent cases of persecuted writers, journalists and bloggers, among others (non-exhaustive list in Annex):
. Nguyen Van Ly, priest and editor of the underground review Tu Do Ngon Luan (Freedom of Opinion). He was sentenced in 2007 to 8 years in prison and 5 years in probationary detention. He previously served 15 years in prison between 1977 and 2005. In November 2009, a stroke paralyzed the right side of his body. Fearing that he would die of other strokes, the Public Security transferred him to Hue city in March 2010. He was placed under police surveillance for 12 months in order to seek medical treatment before his return to the camp. On 25 July 2011, a police ambulance brought him back to the camp to serve the rest of his prison sentence until 2015. He still suffers from partial paralysis and an inflamed prostate that may be cancerous;
. Nguyen Xuan Nghia, poet and novelist, member of the Hai Phong Association of writers and the banned human rights defenders network (Bloc 8406), co-editor of the underground review To Quoc (Fatherland), author of several poems, short stories, notes, memoirs and articles. He was sentenced in 2009 to 6 years in prison and 3 years in probationary detention. Raising his voice against ill-treatment and pleading not guilty, he was held in solitary confinement during many months in 2011. He was denied his right to receive adequate medical treatment and family visits. He is suffering from haemorrhoids, stomach ulcers, gallstones and rheumatic inflammations;
. Nguyen Van Hai (pen name Dieu Cay), independent journalist and blogger, who should have been released on 20 October 2010 after completing his two-and-a-half year prison term, sentence on trumped-up charges of ‘’tax evasion’’ in September 2008. However, on 18 October 2010, he was discreetly transferred to a Public Security detention camp in Ho Chi Minh City, on charges under Article 88 of the Criminal Code. The charges are said to be based on his online writings for the banned Free Journalist Club in Viet Nam, published prior to his arrest in 2008. Pleading not guilty, he has been held incommunicado, without access to family visits, letters or medical and food supplies since 18 October 2010 until 2 May 2012. His fragile health has deteriorated, after he engaged in a hunger strike in 2011.
Firmly condemns grave violations of the right to freedom of expression and opinion in Vietnam.
PEN International therefore calls the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to :
. Release, immediately and unconditionally, Nguyen Van Ly, Nguyen Xuan Nghia, Nguyen Van Hai and all persecuted writers, journalists and bloggers currently in prison or in pre-trial detention for having exercised their right to freedom of expression and opinion.
. Cease all attacks, harassment, threat of arbitrary arrest or preventive detention against all persons who hold dissenting views or who call for freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief.
. Lift all arbitrary restrictions imposed on former imprisoned writers, including those who have not yet served their entire probationary detention terms.
. Improve conditions in prisons and in forced labour camps, stop acts of aggression perpetrated by common law detainees, ban and punish all forms of torture and ill-treatment, allow sick prisoners of opinion to be hospitalized and receive adequate medical care as well as facilitate their family visits.
. Abolish all censorship and restrictions on freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of the press, the right to be informed by all means including the Internet, and freedom of assembly and association, in compliance with the Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Annex : Non-exhaustive list of persecuted writers, journalists and bloggers
1. Currently serving heavy prison sentences :
. Cu Huy Ha Vu sentenced to 7 years, Dinh Dang Dinh 6 years, Ho Thi Bich Khuong (f) 5 years, Le Cong Dinh 5 years, Le Thanh Tung 5 years, Lu Van Bay 4 years, Nguyen Huu Cau life imprisonment, Nguyen Kim Nhan 5 ½ years,Nguyen Manh Son 3 ½ years, Nguyen Phong 6 years, Nguyen Thanh Long(pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh) 11 years, Nguyen Tien Trung 7 years, Nguyen Trung Ton (pastor) 2 years, Nguyen Van Tuc 4 years, Pham Thanh Nghien (f) 4 years, Pham Van Troi 4 years, Phan Ngoc Tuan 5 years, Tran Anh Kim 5 ½ years, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc 16 years and Vi Duc Hoi, 5 years;
2. Detained while awaiting for their trial :
. Le Van Son (Paulus) arrested in August 2011, Nguyen Van Khuong (pen name Hoang Khuong), arrested in January 2012, Phan Thanh Hai (blogger Anh Ba Sai Gon) in October 2010, Ta Phong Tan (f) (blogger Cong Ly & Su That) in September 2011, Tran Vu Anh Binh in September 2011, Vo Minh Tri (pen-name Viet Khang) in December 2011;
3. Under house arrest since 2003 :
. Dang Phuc Tue (Ven. Thich Quang Do), 84-year-old, Buddhist monk and poet.