11 January 2013 – The United Nations human rights office has expressed serious concern over the convictions and sentencing of 14 political activists in Vietnam for subversive activities.
In a news briefing in Geneva, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, said that the 14 activists were convicted on 9 January in Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Court, in Nghe An province, for “subversion of the administration” under article 79 of the country’s Criminal Code.
According to OHCHR, the activists were accused of actively participating in and being members of a political organization known as the Viet Tan. Reportedly, the Vietnamese Government considers the exiled organization to be a militant group.
The activists received sentences ranging between three and 13 years, with three of them receiving the 13-year sentence. All had been held in custody for more than a year prior to the trial.
“Although Viet Tan is a peaceful organization advocating for democratic reform, the Government has deemed it to be a ‘reactionary organization,’” Mr. Colville said. “None of those convicted are alleged to have been involved in violent acts.”
The spokesperson also expressed alarm over the fact that that the convictions were handed down after only two days of trial, and noted that these latest convictions – as well as the arrest and detention in late December of a human rights lawyer, Le Quoc Quan – exemplify the limited space for critical voices in Vietnam.
“We urge the Government of Vietnam to review its use of the Criminal Code to imprison people who are critical of its policies, and to review all such cases violating freedom of expression and association in the country,” Mr. Colville added.
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