The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) call for the end of the judicial harassment of Buddhist Youth leader and human rights defender Le Cong Cau, Head of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam’s (UBCV) Buddhist Youth Movement Commission and an active coordinator of UBCV activities, including on human rights issues, in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue.
Mr. Le Cong Cau has been threatened with prosecution by the police after his articles criticising the policies of the State authorities for violations of freedom of religion, its management of territorial disputes with China were posted on the Internet. He is accused of violating Article 87 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code on “undermining the unity policy” and Article 88 on “circulating anti-state propaganda”. These offences carry prison sentences of up to fifteen and twenty years.
On March 12, 2013, Mr. Le Cong Cau was summoned by the Security Police to come for a “working session” at the Truong An district police station at 8.00 am the following day. For the next two and a half days (March 13 to 15, 2013) he was subjected to intensive interrogations. Before releasing him on March 15, the police declared that they had obtained “sufficient evidence” to prosecute him under Articles 87 and 88 of the Criminal Code.
Unusually, the police interrogation was not conducted by local police, but by an official from the Provincial Security Police, Mr. Nguyen Huu Chung, and two members of the Hue municipal Security Police. They began by showing Le Cong Cau several articles downloaded from the Internet, which, they said,“slandered the regime and spread propaganda about an illegal organization named the UBCV”.
Specifically, the police accused Le Cong Cau of criticising the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) and calling for political change; advocating on behalf of the UBCV; and denouncing the State-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS) as a political tool of the regime. Whilst admitting he had written on all these subjects, Le Cong Cau declared that he was expressing legitimate peaceful opinions in accordance with the Vietnamese Constitution and with international law, and thereby had committed no crime.
On the last day of the interrogation, on March 15, Officer Chung made Le Cong Cau write a statement admitting that he had written articles accusing the VCP of selling off Vietnamese waters and lands; being submissive to China and repressive towards the Vietnamese people; persecuting religions and repressing pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders; advocating political pluralism; predicting the imminent demise of the Communist regime; and accusing the State-sponsored VBS of being a political tool of the VCP.
Le Cong Cau wrote the statement, but refused to recognise these acts as crimes. He tried to add the words: “I stand by my convictions and ideals. Everything I have done is in line with the rights enshrined in the Vietnamese Constitution. All those who try to prevent me are violating our Constitution. I refuse to collaborate with those who trample on the Vietnamese Constitution”. However, the Security Police struck these words off the statement.
FIDH, OMCT and VCHR recall the right of Le Cong Cau to freely express his peaceful opinions, as guaranteed in Article 69 of the Vietnamese Constitution and Article 19 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Vietnam acceded in 1982, which enshrines the right of all people to “receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers”.
Accordingly, we demand the immediate and unconditional end of judicial and other acts of harassment against Mr. Le Cong Cau, and the guarantee, in all circumstances, of his physical and psychological integrity.
In the hope that you will take these elements into account,
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
Vo Van Ai
Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR)