Human Rights Advocacy Groups Call on EU to Pressure Vietnam to End Prosecution of Activists

Key Local:

  • Human Rights Advocacy Groups Call on EU to Pressure Vietnam to End Prosecution of Activists
  • Dak Nong Woman Prosecuted for ‘Slandering the Local Police Force’
  • UN Human Rights Experts ‘Alarmed’ by the Possible Extradition of Montagnard Activist Y Quynh Bdap

Human Rights Advocacy Groups Call on EU to Pressure Vietnam to End Prosecution of Activists

Eight human rights advocacy groups, including Legal Initiatives for Vietnam, which manages The Vietnamese Magazine and Luat Khoa Magazine, published a joint statement on July 4 calling on the European Union (EU) to pressure Vietnam to amend its abusive laws and cease prosecuting activists and human rights defenders. The letter was released during the EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue in Brussels on the same day.

The EU and Hanoi have conducted a human rights dialogue for over a decade. They are a platform for both sides to exchange experiences and align their commitment to upholding human rights with the UN Human Rights mechanisms. However, according to the statement, Vietnam continues to “severely restrict human rights,” especially freedom of expression and assembly. The Global Expression Report 2024 of ARTICLE 19, one of the signatories, showed that the one-party state’s human rights are “in crisis” because of the relentless restriction on freedom of expression. 

The coalition has proposed two critical issues for the EU to include in its dialogue with the Vietnamese government.

First, the joint statement calls on the EU to urge Hanoi to repeal or amend repressive legislation that curtails freedom of expression by criminalizing online speech, including Articles 109, 117, and 331 of the Penal Code, the 2018 Cybersecurity Law, and a draft version of the Internet Control Decree 77 that requires the verification of social media users’ identities.

In addition, the coalition urges Vietnam to end its prosecution of journalists, human rights defenders, climate change activists, and other civil society actors. It also calls on the EU to push tech companies operating in Vietnam to protect users’ freedom of expression and adhere to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

A Dak Nong Woman Prosecuted for ‘Slandering the Local Police Force’

A social media user in Vietnam who allegedly published slanderous information about the police in her district has been prosecuted under Article 331 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the legitimate rights and interests of others.”

State media reported that the Dak Nong Provincial Police Department of Investigation on July 4 detained and prosecuted Mai Diep Thao, 43, who lives in Dak Mil District, Dak Nong Province, for smearing the reputation of the district police force. The initial investigation found that Thao had filed a report to the Dak Mil District Police claiming that she’d been robbed and beaten by her ex-husband and his family. However, the police reportedly investigated and found that her accusation was fabricated.

After the Dak Mil District Police Department dropped the case due to a lack of evidence, Thao reportedly continued to file her complaint and posted it on social media. According to state media, she also went to a commune police headquarters and verbally insulted the police there. The Procuracy concluded in the indictment that Thao had “violated the legitimate rights and interests of the Dak Mil District Police and several officers working there.”

The police investigation bureau also determined that the Dak Nong social media user had uploaded video clips of unauthorized religious practices in the locality, which “affected other religious activities, security and order in the locality.” It added that Thao’s postings had also “reduced the reputation of state agencies and seriously damaged the honor and dignity of law enforcement officers.” Article 331, condemned by human rights advocacy groups for its vague and abusive wording, carries a punishment between two and seven years of imprisonment.

Independent UN human rights experts have expressed concerns over Vietnam’s request that Thailand extradite Montagnard activist Y Quynh Bdap, a political refugee and co-founder of the indigenous rights group Montagnards Stand for Justice.

In a press release published on July 4, the special rapporteurs urged Thai authorities not to return Bdap to Vietnam as an obligation of nonrefoulement under international human rights law. They underscored the risks that Bdap could face if he is deported, including possible criminal prosecution, torture, other forms of inhumane or degrading treatment, and even forced disappearance.

Bdap is a refugee recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) due to his advocacy for the rights of indigenous populations in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. He fled to Thailand in 2018 to evade government persecution and has recently been interviewed by the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok regarding his resettlement.

Early this year, the Montagnard activist was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in absentia on “terrorism” charges linked to an armed attack in the province of Dak Lak in June 2023. The UN experts wrote that this trial “did not meet fair trial guarantees under international law.” They also mentioned the Thai Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearances Act, a law that became active on Feb. 22, 2023, which forbids Thai authorities from deporting or extraditing a person to another country where he or she could be subjected to torture or inhumane treatment.

According to the statement, the prosecution and conviction of Bdap reflects the inherent discrimination and maltreatment of the Montagnards and other indigenous peoples by the Vietnamese government. Such mistreatment includes the state’s use of force and legal codes to repress religious leaders and criminalize activists in the region using terrorism charges.

Therefore, the experts called on Thailand to enhance the protection of Montagnard refugees by recognizing them in national law and regularizing their residency status. Also, according to the special rapporteurs, third countries that receive asylum applications need to expedite the process regarding the relocation of refugees.

Quick takes

Ministry of Public Security Appoints New Spokesperson

Minister of Public Security Luong Tam Quang on July 6 assigned Maj. Gen. Hoang Anh Tuyen to be the new spokesperson for this ministry, replacing his predecessor, Lt. Gen. To An Xo. Previously, on June 1, Xo left his role as the police spokesperson to assume a new position at the Presidential Office after Gen. To Lam officially became the president of Vietnam. Tuyen held different positions in the Drug Prevention and Control Office of the Ministry of Public Security.

Hanoi Responds Positively to State Department’s Human Trafficking Report

Foreign Ministry spokesman Pham Thu Hang said in a press conference on July 4 that Vietnam “welcomes” the U.S. State Department’s 2024 report on the situation of human trafficking, adding that it is an “objective assessment of its positive results in preventing human trafficking.” The Southeast Asian country was classified as Tier 2 in the report, designated for countries that are “making significant efforts” to combat trafficking. However, advocacy group Project88 suggests that this ranking could result from Hanoi’s lobbying efforts rather than its actual improvement in anti-trafficking efforts.

Activists in Exile Say They Become Targets of Transnational Repression

Pham Thanh Nghien, a Vietnamese activist who has lived in the U.S. since April 2023, told VOA News that a stranger who called himself a security agent had texted her and invited her and her husband for lunch in a perceived attempt of harassment and intimidation. Nghien reported the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department. Attorney Nguyen Van Dai, another well-known activist, also said that state-sponsored agents had begun surveillance of him after he moved to Germany in 2018.

Political Prisoner Phan Van Bach Still Being Held Incommunicado

Project88 reported that Nguyen Thi Yeu, wife of political prisoner Phan Van Bach, said that there was no new upgrade in the prosecution process of her husband and that she is unclear when Bach’s trial will begin. Currently, Bach is being held incommunicado, and Yeu is not allowed to visit him; she can only give Bach an allowance every month. Bach, one of the former creators of the YouTube channel Chấn hưng Việt Nam TV (CHTV), was arrested last December and charged with “distribution of anti-state propaganda.”

New Regulation Requires Facial Recognition for Online Transactions

A new regulation that came into force on July 1 requires people using the Vietnamese banking system to verify their facial biometric data if they want to make any digital payment or financial transfer exceeding 10 million dong ($393) of each transaction or a total accumulation of 20 million dong a day. Bank users must register their facial scans in the banking app and scan their faces again to make any new transactions. The plan has nonetheless raised concerns about users’ privacy issues and whether or not the state could misuse such data for surveillance purposes.

VOA News/ July 3

“Analysts cite an effort to strengthen Vietnam’s South China Sea territorial claims as a key reason Hanoi welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month, despite potential fallout from links to Moscow in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

They also say Russian investment in offshore oil and gas reserves off Vietnam’s coast in the South China [Sea] shows Hanoi strengthening its territorial claims.

Vietnam and Russia signed 11 agreements during the visit. They included, according to the Kremlin, granting an investment license for a hydrocarbon block off Vietnam’s southeastern coast to Zarubezhneft, a state-owned Russian oil and gas firm with a history of joint ventures with Vietnam.”


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