VOICE Launches Mid-term UPR Advocacy Campaign 2017

13/9/2017 – Following VOICE’s Universal Periodic Review Advocacy Campaign in 2014, a delegation advocating for human rights in Vietnam will go to Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, and the Czech Republic to update United Nations bodies and relevant organizations on the progress (or lack of) the Vietnamese government has made on promoting and protecting human rights since the last review cycle in 2014, as well as to raise awareness about the human rights situation and prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.

The campaign will be launched on the birthday of imprisoned blogger, Mr. Nguyen Huu Vinh (pen name Anh Ba Sam), on September 15th and will last until October 10th, 2017. The delegation consists of Ms. Le Thi Minh Ha, the wife of Mr. Nguyen Huu Vinh, as well as VOICE representatives and Vietnamese human rights defenders, Ms. Anna Nguyen and Ms. Thao Dinh.

In particular, Ms. Thao Dinh will speak before the United Nations Human Rights Council (inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe) in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 19th in order to raise further attention to Vietnam’s severe human rights violations. This event will be televised live.

With assistance from the relevant international organizations, this delegation aims to provide full and accurate information on the current human rights situation in Vietnam. It is hoped that our advocacy will inspire further changes to encourage the Vietnamese government to better respect and protect human rights as a state party to multiple UN human rights treaties.

For more information regarding the delegation and its activities, please contact: contact@vietnamvoice.org

The New York Times: “It’s Very Easy to Die There”: How Prisoners Fare in Vietnam

Do Thi Mai, the mother of a 17-year-old boy who died after falling into a coma while in police custody, at home in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. “How did he turn out like this?” she asked. Credit Amanda Mustard for The New York Times

HANOI, Vietnam — Do Thi Mai said she was shocked to learn that her 17-year-old son, Do Dang Du, had fallen into a coma in prison a few weeks after he was arrested, accused by the police of stealing about $90.

The police initially said that Mr. Du’s severe head and leg wounds had been caused by falls in the bathroom, according to a family lawyer. “He was unconscious, so I couldn’t ask him,” Ms. Mai said.

Mr. Du died in the hospital a few days later, in October 2015, and members of his family told an interviewer that they believed he had been tortured in custody. The next month, two of their lawyers were assaulted outside the family home by what the lawyers said were eight masked men.

Nearly two years later, Ms. Mai is still searching for closure. “Two months before he died, he was healthy,” she said during an emotional interview at home on the rural fringe of Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi. “How did he turn out like this?”

Vietnam has been slowly updating its criminal justice system for years, under pressure from Western governments, and additional changes approved by the National Assembly in June are scheduled to take effect in January. But diplomats and rights groups have long suspected, based on interviews with former inmates and reports in Vietnam’s state-run news media, that prisons in the country have high rates of executions, forced labor and deaths in custody.

A recent government report on Vietnam’s prison system — which was posted on an official website a few months ago, possibly by accident, according to rights activists — appears to confirm many of the activists’ worst fears.

In one section, the report said 429 prisoners had been executed from August 2013 to June 2016, a rare admission from a one-party government that has long kept its execution process opaque. According to Amnesty International, that means Vietnam had the world’s third-highest execution rate over that period, after China and Iran.

Another section, referring to the period from 2011 to 2016, said 261,840 inmates had received vocational training, a term that rights activists say essentially means forced labor. In addition, the report said, the remains or ashes of 2,812 prisoners were approved for collection by family members, suggesting a high rate of deaths in custody for a prison population that the government says numbers less than 150,000.

The statistics “give us reason to doubt that governance is becoming less authoritarian and violent as Vietnam transitions to a market economy,” said Benjamin Swanton, a longtime social justice advocate and development consultant in Vietnam.

vietnam-prison-abuses - Đỗ Đăng Dư - Trong đó rất dễ chết – Tình trạng của những người bị giam ở Việt Nam 2
Official paperwork related to Do Dang Du’s death that his family said it received from the Vietnamese authorities. Credit Amanda Mustard for The New York Times

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to emailed questions about conditions in Vietnamese prisons.

Many officials in Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party support changes to the criminal justice system, said Pip Nicholson, a professor at Melbourne Law School in Australia who specializes in Vietnamese law. But party officials who advocate for Western-style rules, such as truly independent courts or the presumption of innocence until proved guilty, she added, are in the minority.

The result, policy experts and rights advocates say, is a court system where arrests almost always lead to convictions and a prison system where human rights are an afterthought. Corruption, impunity and violence in prisons are mostly tolerated, these advocates say, because the system serves the party’s interests by silencing dissidents and enriching prison guards.

“It’s very easy to die there,” said Doan Trang, an independent journalist in Hanoi who has written extensively about state-led repression in the country.

The recent government report presented prison statistics as part of a long-term process of changes in line with global trends. It noted, for example, that the number of crimes punishable by death in Vietnam had fallen to 22 in 2009 from 45 in 1993.

The report also said, however, that the number of people on death row in Vietnam had climbed to 681 last year from 336 in 2011, and that the government planned to build five new execution centers to accommodate demand.

The global trend is a reduction in the use of the death penalty, said Janice Beanland, a campaigner at Amnesty International. “This is why it’s a bit shocking to us to learn that, in actual fact, Vietnam has been executing people more regularly than we believed,” she said.

The government report said that Vietnam had improved vocational education in prisons and that inmates received training in tasks like sewing, construction, carpentry, mechanics, farming and the processing of agricultural products.

But former prisoners and human rights groups say that such labor is usually not voluntary, and that the cashews, garments and other products are exported from prison workshops for a profit.

Doan Huy Chuong, a labor rights activist who was released in February after a seven-year prison term, said it was common for prisoners to rise at 6 a.m. and do manual labor, without pay, until anywhere from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

vietnam-prison-abuses - Đỗ Đăng Dư - Trong đó rất dễ chết – Tình trạng của những người bị giam ở Việt Nam
Do Dang Du’s father, Do Dang Ung, adjusting a photo on a memorial altar for his son. Credit Amanda Mustard for The New York Times

Prisoners with money can bribe their way into hospitals if they fall ill, he said. “Without money, if they have a fever, they still have to work,” he added.

Rights advocates said they were especially worried about the government report’s claim that the remains and ashes of 2,812 prisoners were approved for collection by family members.

In a 2014 report, Human Rights Watch said that prisoners who died in custody were often being held for minor infractions and that the official explanations for their deaths “strained credulity and gave the appearance of systematic cover-ups.” It quoted survivors as saying that police officers had sometimes beaten them to extract confessions for crimes that they denied committing.

“Do I think they start out with the idea of beating someone to death? No,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “But do I think that there’s no accountability or controls in the system? Yes. And that’s the fundamental problem.”

In the case of Mr. Du, the teenager who died in custody in 2015, police investigators said for months afterward that his head injury — an inchwide gash — had been caused when his cellmate kicked him on the top of his head, not by a fall in the shower as they initially said, according to Le Luan, one of the family’s lawyers.

The cellmate, Vu Van Binh, was later sentenced to 10 years in jail for “deliberately inflicting injuries.” But Mr. Luan said in an interview that he believed the police explanation of Mr. Du’s death was littered with forensic inconsistencies.

For example, he said, citing an X-ray he provided to The New York Times, the wound was on Mr. Du’s forehead, not the top of his head. It was also hard to imagine, he said, how Mr. Du’s severe leg injuries could have been caused by falling onto a toilet in the bathroom, as the authorities claimed.

The causes that the police described “could not have created such serious wounds,” Mr. Luan said. “There must have been another incident.”

Members of Mr. Du’s extended family said in a separate interview that they were still not sure how he had died.

The only certainty, they said, is that something about the official explanation does not add up.

“He did something wrong,” Mr. Du’s grandfather Do Dinh Van said as he stood beside a makeshift altar that the family had created for the boy in their bare living room. “But he didn’t deserve to die.”

Source from “It’s Very Easy to Die There”: How Prisoners Fare in VietnamThe New York Times : 

VOICE Australia and Prisoner of conscience Dinh Nguyen Kha’s mother advocate for human rights in Vietnam

On 12 July 2017, VOICE, along with a number of interested civil society organizations (CSOS) met with Dr. Lachlan Strahan, First Assistant Secretary of the Multilateral Policy Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra, Australia, ahead of the fourteenth Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, which is expected to be held in Canberra in August.

Ms. Giang Nguyen represented VOICE Australia and Ms. Anna Nguyen represented VOICE, along with Mrs. Nguyen Thi Kim Lien, mother of Prisoner of conscience, Dinh Nguyen Kha, who is currently serving a 6-year sentence for distributing pamphlets critical of the Vietnamese government.

VOICE Australia cùng mẹ tù nhân chính trị Đinh Nguyên Kha đi vận động cho nhân quyền Việt Nam
VOICE Australia and political prisoner Dinh Nguyen Kha’s mother advocate for human rights in Vietnam

The Dialogue is an important component of the bilateral relationship between Australia and Vietnam, which allows discussion of the full range of human rights issues of interest and concern in a constructive, franks and open atmosphere.

Ms. Anna Nguyen, on behalf of VOICE, made a number of submissions to Dr. Strahan and his staff at DFAT in order to help expand civil society in Vietnam and send a strong international message to the Vietnamese government.

This was VOICE’s third participation in the meeting prior to the Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue. VOICE will continue to play an integral role in future dialogues.

VOICE representative, Ms Anna Nguyen and Mrs Nguyen Thi Kim Lien met with Ms. Elaine Pearson, Australia Director at Human Rights Watch today in Sydney to discuss matters of concern relating to prisoners of conscience and human rights issues in Vietnam. Specially, Dinh Nguyen Kha’s current medical condition and Human Rights Watch’s Vietnam report, No Country for Human Rights Activists: Assaults on Bloggers, and Democracy Campaigners in Vietnam, published on 18 June 2017, was brought up, as well as Mrs. Lien Nguyen’s idea to start a network for parents of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.

VOICE Australia cùng mẹ tù nhân chính trị Đinh Nguyên Kha đi vận động cho nhân quyền Việt Nam
VOICE Australia and political prisoner Dinh Nguyen Kha’s mother advocate for human rights in Vietnam

Human Rights Watch is an American-founded international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights and has routinely called out on the Vietnamese government and authorities on its treatment of bloggers and human rights activists.

Reporting Live: The Trial of Mother Mushroom 29/06/2017

Reporting Live: The Trial of Mother Mushroom 29/06/2017 (VOICE team synthesis)

– 5:10 PM: The court has just announced Mother Mushroom’s sentence: 10 years in prison.

– 2:00 PM: Labor Newspaper has published the article, “Proposal of 8-10 Years Imprisonment for Mother Mushroom.” Link here: http://nld.com.vn/thoi-su-trong-nuoc/de-nghi-8-10-nam-tu-doi-voi-me-nam-2017062913405768.htm
There are many people participating in the public hearing, but in reality, many people have not been able to even enter the court. The article posted a photo showing Mushroom’s mother attending the trial, but in the picture, no one was Ms. Lan, Mushroom’s mother.

– 1:45 PM: Trinh Kim Tien interviewed Lawyer Vo An Don after the morning trial. Mother Mushroom has five lawyers but only three lawyers are present, including Vo An Don. Apparently, Mushroom proposed to postpone the trial, but it was not approved. Her attorneys ventured to meet with her, but they were also dismissed. All the while, Mushroom is still being denied to see her Mother, Ms. Lan.

– 1:00 PM: Trinh Kim Tien interviewed Ms. Lan after she left the courtroom. She explained that she was not in the actual trial room, but was instead taken to a separate room to watch it all on television. According to Ms. Lan, Mother Mushroom was not able to present her own argument and view without being interrupted. Ms. Lan claims that the 8-10 year jail proposal by the procuracy was a completely unjust sentence and it only served to expose the regime’s immorality.
https://www.facebook.com/trinhkimkim/videos/1519361338084095/

– 12:50 PM: Lawyer Le Luan, advocate for Mother Mushroom, shared on Facebook this morning: I request the convening of three assessors of the Department of Information and Communication Khanh Hoa province on many terms. The argument “I find it difficult to understand,” that the chairman spewed at my request is not justified should be reconsidered.

– 12:00 PM: Nguyen Minh Bao Ngoc, cousin of Mother Mushroom, has been arrested and taken to the Xuan Huan Police Station (address: 11 Phan Boi Chau, Nha Trang). Because of this, Ms. Lan and her family are moving to Xuan Huan to demand her release.

– 11:45 AM: Lunch break; at 2:00 PM, the trial continues.
Lawyer Le Kha Thanh reveals that the prosecutor has proposed 8-10 additional years in jail for Mother Mushroom.

– 11:20 AM: Representatives of several civil society organizations are holding a meeting to protest the trial of Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Mother Mushroom) in Khanh Hoa, Nha Trang. Https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=973399029466814&set=a.135990509874341.27922.100003901786714&type=3&theater

– 11:00 AM: Blogger Trinh Kim Tien has updated on Facebook that the morning trial is coming to an end. There is also a doctor, guarded by security, standing outside the court door for unknown reasons.

– 10:40 AM: Young activists protest outside the courthouse by standing behind the barriers and duct-taping their mouths shut.

Tường thuật Phiên xử Mẹ Nấm 29/06/2017 (VOICE team tổng hợp)

– 9:40 AM: From Saigon, Vo Hong Ly took to the streets waving the high banner:
“Free Mother Mushroom
Patriotism is not Evil
Environmental & Human Rights for Vietnam”

– 8:35 AM: Outside the trial area, blogger Nguyen Ho Nhat Thanh hosted a live stream (https://www.facebook.com/paulothanhnguyen/videos/1545808958796675/) where he interviewed a few young supporters of Mother Mushroom. One of the supporters, young Phat, states that Mushroom’s sensible activism in fighting for human rights, against Formosa, is not malicious propaganda. It is not something to be afraid of. Another supporter named Nam claims that the authorities should honor Mother Mushroom as an international organization and peacekeeper, rather than condemn her.

Blogger Trinh Kim Tien interviewed Nguyen Minh Hung, Mother Mushroom’s Uncle (Ms. Lan’s brother). Minh Hung left his home quite early to attend the court session, but he was not allowed inside. The post can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/trinhkimkim/videos/1519031794783716 /
He says: “I came here for the public hearing but it is nowhere near “public”. Proof is that we are relatives, but we not let in. “

When asked if he knew about Mushroom’s activities, Hung replied, “My niece did nothing wrong. She only speaks truth about this State, but the State does not like the truth. I hope the State will reconsider, and dare to face reality.”

Also, Le Cong Dinh, a prestigious lawyer, posted a facebook status (https://www.facebook.com/LSLeCongDinh/posts/1900342693572839) that reads: “DOWN WITH THE RIDICULOUS TRIAL OF MOTHER MUSHROOM! No matter the outcome, that judgement would fall on the inhumane communist regime.”

– 8:30 AM: The Khanh Hoa People’s Court opens the trial of Mother Mushroom, accusing her of committing “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” under Article 88 of the Penal Code. There are four lawyers for Mother Mushroom in this trial: Nguyen Ha Luan, Le Van Luan, Nguyen Kha Thanh and Vo An Don. Two unidentified people, one woman and one young man, have been arrested in the court area simply for picking up their phones. More than 10 supporters that have traveled from Saigon to Nha Trang are standing 100 meters away from the court area, intermixed with the Khanh Hoa and Saigon security enclosures.

Six of Mother Mushroom’s close friends are in the court area, and no one has been allowed inside, except Ms. Lan, Mother Mushroom’s Mother. However, no one is able contact Ms. Lan. This is possibly due to the fact that outside, there are many signal waves that are being jammed or tampered with by the Government. All means of communication are cut off.

– 7:45 AM: Ms. Tuyet Lan, Mother Mushroom’s mother and blogger Trinh Kim Tien have begun walking to the courthouse, past the ring of police and secret services. They could not acquire a taxi or bus because of the heavy surveillance. Ms. Lan’s family had to resort to using a motorbike to get to the court. At about 7:45 am, Ms. Lan was admitted into the court area, but she did not know if she could go to the specific courtroom her daughter was in. Meanwhile, blogger Trinh Kim Tien was blocked outside, despite her request to attend the trial as a related person. Tien was also asked to shut down her phone as she was shooting a live stream on Facebook.

– 7:00 AM: The current situation is quite tense; it is difficult to approach the trial. The police forces are surrounding the trial within a 500 meter radius. The house of Mother Mushroom’s mother is also surrounded by nearly 20 police officers, some in uniform and some wearing ordinary clothing.

– Yesterday afternoon (June 28, 2017): Mother Mushroom’s daughter and mother were allowed to see her, despite the countless barriers that were assembled to block away the public.
However, Mother Mushroom was able to meet with her mother for just five minutes. Her devastated mother told Mushroom to simply apologize, but Mushroom insisted, “If you let me start this journey over and choose where to go, I would have done what I did.”

Background: Blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, more commonly known as Mother Mushroom, writes about social equality and speaks out for democracy and human rights. Mother Mushroom was the Civil Rights Defender of the year in 2015, awarded by the Swedish Civil Rights Defenders Foundation. She was also awarded the International Woman of Courage Award in 2017 by Melania Trump, the First Lady of the United States.

In relation to the aforementioned activities, she has been arrested several times between 2009 and 2016. However, the most eminent case and the reason for her trial today is based on her last arrest, which has kept her in prison from October 2016 until now.

#FreeMeNam
#FreeNguyenNgocNhuQuynh
#WomenOfCourage
#FormosaGetOut

VOICE Bangkok Introduction

VOICE Bangkok officially set up its permanent presence in December 2015 and is led by VOICE’s ASEAN Program Coordinator, Anna Nguyen. VOICE Bangkok is responsible for the following:

  1. Refugee: Humanitarian and legal assistance to the stateless Vietnamese asylum seekers in South East Asia
  2. Advocacy:
    a. Implementing advocacy strategies involving the promotion of human rights in Vietnam as well as raising awareness on behalf of Vietnamese human rights defenders at risk and political prisoners.
    b.  Seeking humanitarian assistance for human rights defenders at risk and families of political prisoners.
    c.  Filing communications on behalf of Vietnamese human rights defenders and political prisoners through the use of various UN Special Procedures, such as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Opinion and Expression, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
  3. Training: Finding internship and training opportunities for the long-term interns in Manila.

Our achievements so far:

  • Resettling at least 90 Vietnamese stateless asylum seekers that had been left stranded in Thailand for 27 years to Canada (since 2014)
  • Receiving at least 50,000 USD from a number of international NGOs and bodies for human rights defenders at risk and families of political prisoners
  • Developing a close working relationship with the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Vietnam Human Rights Desk Officer of the US and Swedish Embassy, and international NGOS including Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Forum Asia, and Amnesty International for advocacy purposes

Giới thiệu về văn phòng của VOICE tại Bangkok - Thái Lan

Giới thiệu về văn phòng của VOICE tại Bangkok - Thái Lan

EU’s lawyers’ letter to VN’s PM on Nguyen Van Dai’s case

Full version

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc
Office of the Prime Minister
1, Hoang Hoa Tham
Hanoi Socialist
Republic of Viet Nam

Brussels, 9 June 2016

Re: Concerns regarding Vietnamese lawyer Nguyen Van Dai

Your Excellency,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), which, through the national Bars and Law Societies of the Member States of the European Union and the European Economic Area, represents more than 1 million European lawyers. In addition to membership from EU bars, it also has observer representatives from a further thirteen European countries’ bars. The CCBE places great emphasis on respect for human rights and the rule of law, and is particularly concerned with the situation of human rights defenders around the world.

The CCBE wishes to express its serious concern over the situation of Nguyen Van Dai, a human rights lawyer who founded the Vietnam Human Rights Centre and the Brotherhood for Democracy. Mr. Van Dai has been in detention for nearly six months.

We understand that, on 6 December 2015, as he was on his way back from leading a human rights workshop, Mr. Van Dai was beaten with metal bars by men identified as plainclothes police officers. Ten days later, he was arrested just before he was going to meet representatives of the European Union in Hanoi. His house was searched and officers confiscated his computers, USB sticks, cameras, and savings account’s bank book. He was subsequently charged with “spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code, which has been ruled in violation of international law by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Mr. Van Dai has been in detention ever since, awaiting trial. If convicted, he faces three to 20 years in prison.

In this context, the CCBE wishes to draw to your attention the Principle of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (attached), in particular Principles 16 and 22 on Guarantees for the functioning of lawyers, and Principle 23 on Freedom of expression and association.

In view of the above, the CCBE respectfully urges your Excellency to take effective steps to ensure that the charges against Mr. Van Dai are dropped and that he is released, and to guarantee his safety and security. In addition, the CCBE asks you to guarantee in all circumstances that all lawyers in Viet Nam are able to express their opinions and perform their professional duties without fear of reprisal, hindrance, intimidation, or harassment.

Yours sincerely,

Michel Benichou
President

Thông Cáo Về Tin Đồn VOICE Là Tổ Chức Của Việt Tân

Tải bản PDF tại đây.

21/4/2016 

Thời gian qua, một số cá nhân và cơ quan an ninh Việt Nam đưa tin đồn rằng VOICE là một tổ chức của đảng Việt Tân và ông Trịnh Hội, Giám đốc điều hành của VOICE, là một thành viên của Việt Tân.

Để phản hồi trước những tin đồn vô căn cứ này cũng như xác định vai trò của VOICE trong tiến trình xây dựng xã hội dân sự Việt Nam nhằm thúc đẩy và bảo vệ nhân quyền, Hội Đồng Quản Trị của VOICE xin làm rõ như sau:

1. VOICE không có mối quan hệ nào về mặt tổ chức với Việt Tân hay bất kỳ đảng phái chính trị nào khác trong quá khứ cũng như hiện tại. VOICE là một tổ chức phi chính phủ, phi lợi nhuận và hoàn toàn độc lập, được đăng ký tại tiểu bang California theo quy chế 501(c)(3) của pháp luật Hoa Kỳ vốn không cho phép việc tham gia các hoạt động chính trị đảng phái.

2. Không có thành viên Hội Đồng Quản Trị nào của VOICE hiện nay, bao gồm cả Giám đốc điều hành Trịnh Hội, là thành viên của Việt Tân hay của bất kỳ đảng phái chính trị Việt Nam nào khác, trong quá khứ cũng như hiện tại.

3. Việc ông Hoàng Tứ Duy, đảng viên kiêm phát ngôn viên của Việt Tân hiện nay, từng là thành viên Hội Đồng Quản Trị của VOICE từ năm 2007 đến năm 2010 không tạo ra mối quan hệ nào về mặt tổ chức giữa VOICE và Việt Tân. Ông Hoàng Tứ Duy tham gia Hội Đồng Quản Trị của VOICE khi đó với tư cách cá nhân, không phải với tư cách đại diện của Việt Tân.

Tuyên bố này không đồng nghĩa với việc VOICE chống lại bất kỳ đảng phái chính trị nào. VOICE tái khẳng định lập trường ủng hộ một nền dân chủ cho Việt Nam với sự tham gia mạnh mẽ và hiệu quả của người dân, trong đó có các đảng phái chính trị, vốn là điều kiện để phát triển một xã hội dân sự lành mạnh.

Các thành viên Hội đồng quản trị của VOICE (đã ký):

Chủ tịch: Đoàn Việt Trung
Thành viên: Jaclyn Fabre/Maxwell Vo/Jessica Soto/Trịnh Hội

— Hết thông cáo —

Joint Statement Calling for the Release of Vietnamese Activists: Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha

On 16 December 2015, prominent human rights lawyer, Mr. Nguyen Van Dai, 46, and his colleague, Ms. Le Thu Ha, 33, were arrested at their home and office in Hanoi, Vietnam, respectively. Both have been charged with “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, a law that has been routinely and arbitrarily invoked by the government to suppress critical voices.

Human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai

Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Le are being held in B14 prison in Hanoi. Requests by activists to visit them have been rejected and there are concerns that they are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. If convicted, Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Le could face up to 20 years in prison.

We appeal to the Vietnamese government to honor its international and domestic obligations and to release Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Le immediately and unconditionally.

We also call on the international community to act and put pressure on the Vietnamese government regarding these cases which have a severe chilling effect on freedom of expression in Vietnam.

During Mr. Nguyen’s arrest, his home was searched thoroughly by approximately 20 police officers. His laptops, bank documents and many other personal items were confiscated, while his apartment remains under tight surveillance.

Mr. Nguyen is a well-known peaceful campaigner for a multi-party democracy and the protection of human rights in Vietnam. He has devoted his life to providing legal assistance to the most vulnerable and marginalized people in society.

Mr. Nguyen has repeatedly been subjected to unwarranted persecution for undertaking his legitimate work. In 2007, he was convicted under Article 88 of the Penal Code (employing propaganda against the state) and sentenced to 4 years in prison and placed under 4 years of house arrest. At the time, he had been holding seminars to teach students about the fundamentals of a free society and the rule of law.

Activist Le Thu Ha

Since Mr. Nguyen’s release from prison in 2011, he had been subjected to countless incidents of harassment and surveillance by police officers. He was still recovering from injuries sustained from a vicious assault by masked assailants on 6 December 2015, after he had attended a meeting to mark International Human Rights Day. He was badly beaten, robbed and thrown on the street.

Vietnam has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, (ICCPR), which protects the right to freedom of opinion and expression (Article 19), and the right to liberty and security of a person, which includes the right to not be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention (Article 9).

The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers specifically affirm that lawyers are “entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly” and that, “they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights”. The Basic Principles also set out a number of guarantees to ensure that lawyers are able to fulfill their professional roles without undue interference.

Furthermore, Vietnam’s Constitution protects the right to freedom of opinion and speech (Article 25) and guarantees that no citizen may be arrested without a warrant and that the arrest and detention must be in accordance with the law (Article 20).

We therefore strongly urge the Vietnamese authorities to comply with Vietnam’s human rights obligations, and drop all charges against Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Le, who have been peacefully carrying out activities to promote and protect human rights.

We further urge the international community to strongly intervene at the highest possible levels to support the expeditious release of both human rights defenders.

SIGNED:

  1. Amnesty International – ENGLAND
  2. Christian Solidarity Worldwide – ENGLAND
  3. Front Line Defenders – IRELAND
  4. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation – SOUTH AFRICA
  5. Civil Rights Defenders – SWEDEN
  6. International Service for Human Rights – SWITZERLAND
  7. International Commission of Jurists – SWITZERLAND
  8. Freedom House – USA
  9. Human Rights Foundation – USA
  10. Humanitarian China – USA
  11. National Congress of Vietnamese Americans – USA
  12. People In Need – CZECH REPUBLIC
  13. Van Lang – CZECH REPUBLIC
  14. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) – THAILAND
  15. Foundation for Community Educational Media – THAILAND
  16. SHANAH – BURMA
  17. Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) – INDONESIA
  18. The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) – INDONESIA
  19. Legal Aid Center for the Press (LBH Pers) – INDONESIA
  20. ASEAN SOGIE Caucus – PHILIPPINES
  21. Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment (VOICE) – USA, AUSTRALIA, CANADA & EUROPE
  22. Brotherhood for Democracy – VIETNAM
  23. Civil Society Forum – VIETNAM
  24. No-U Mien Trung – VIETNAM
  25. Vietnam Path Movement – VIETNAM
  26. Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association – VIETNAM

Civil Society and the TPP Negotiations

VOICE, together with civil society leaders from Vietnam, visited the Washington Post in D.C. to give their thoughts on the current situation in Vietnam and how “Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal presents both peril and opportunity.” As noted, “journalist Nguyen Van Hai, one of the political prisoners released last year after six years behind bars, told us, Vietnam’s communists also relaxed their grip a decade ago while pursuing membership in the World Trade Organization — only to crack down again when the United States and other nations moved their attention elsewhere.”

The rest of the article can be read here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-more-open-vietnam/2015/08/23/f6bff4ac-4846-11e5-8e7d-9c033e6745d8_story.html

Voice from our Homeland

Please join VOICE in supporting Tiếng Nước Tôi (“Voice from our Homeland”) a charity night hosted by us –  the Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment. VOICE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working to develop civil society in Vietnam and to resettle the last remaining boat-people left stateless in Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines.

This night will feature an 8-course dinner and show hosted by human rights lawyer Trinh Hoi. The show will include performances by well-known singers such as Lam Thuy Van, Do Tien Dung, Kimo Huynh Khuu, Nguyen Dinh Cat and Khanh Di, who will be accompanied by the May Trang band.

The event will be hosted at Phu Lam Restaurant (3082 Story Rd. in San Jose, CA 95127) on Saturday, August 15 from 7PM to 11PM.

General admission tickets are $50. VIP tickets, which include a free drink and front row seats, are $75. Tickets for this event are online (http://voice.ticketleap.com/voice-sj-fundraiser/) or at the following retail locations:

  • Pho Viet, 1751 N 1st St San Jose, California 95112
  • Pho Viet, 2557 N 1st St San Jose, California 95131
  • Co Hong Music, Grand Century Mall – 1111 Story Road #1002, San Jose, CA 95122

If you have any questions please contact Amy Nguyen at ntvyhanh@gmail.com.

11 Vietnamese Refugees Arrive in Canada from Thailand

On April 24, a third group of Vietnamese refugees arrived in Toronto, Canada. This is part of the group of the last Vietnamese boat people who had arrived in Canada last November 2014. This group consisted of 3 families made up of 11 people. After being stateless in Thailand for 25 years, they have been accepted into Canada to start their new lives

Việt – Phi ten years reunion

In 2005, nearly 2000 stateless Vietnamese boat people were resettled in the US under a special humanitarian program designed to end their statelessness after languishing for over 16 years in the Philippines. On January 18, 2015, on the 10th anniversary of their resettlement in the US, over 200 former refugees gathered at VOICE’s Executive Director, Hoi Trinh’s house to commemorate the event with their loved ones, former advocates, and friends and supporters such as Reverend Thich Nguyen Thao from Vancouver, Lily Le and Ann Pham of VOICE Canada, Atty. Tran Kinh Luan, Atty. Nguyen Quoc Lan, Fr. Dao, Fr. Trong, Musician Truc Ho, MC Nam Loc, etc. many of whom spent months and years in the 90s and 2000s to assist the group. It was a day long celebration with lots of singing, dancing, outdoor mingling and of course, eating. By the end of the day, along with festivities, they also raised a small fund for the refugees left behind in Thailand which will be given to VOICE.

Việt – Thái Refugee recap

40 years since the end of the Vietnam War and over 20 years after being stranded in Thailand, the last remaining Vietnamese Boat People have been accepted into Canada! The group is to be resettled in Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, Calgary and Toronto – on 13 November 2014, the first group of 28 individuals arrived in Canada, the second group of 39 individuals joined them on 25 November 2014. The remaining families will be arriving in Canada later in 2015.

Joint statement by Australian organisations and community groups 13 February 2015 NEVER AGAIN: LET’S END THE DETENTION OF CHILDREN ONCE AND FOR ALL

“VOICE Australia is 1 of over 200 groups to sign onto a statement to call for the cessation of detaining asylum children. This joint letter follows the release this week of the Australian HR Commission’s report on kids in detention.”

The  report  of  the  Australian  Human  Rights  Commission’s  National  Inquiry  into  Children  in Immigration  Detention  provides  compelling  evidence  of  the  need  for  Australia  to  cease  the
detention of children once and for all. Drawing on  interviews in detention facilities with more than 1000 children and their parents, the report offers a deeply disturbing record of the harm inflicted on so many children by successive governments. The Government, Opposition and all members of the Australian Parliament must take immediate action to ensure that all children are released from Australian-funded detention centres, in Australia and Nauru, and to ensure that these policies are never repeated.

The indefinite mass detention of children is a national disgrace for which both of Australia’s major political parties bear responsibility. Under the Rudd and Gillard Governments, record numbers of children  were  detained,  reaching  a  peak  of  1,992  in July  2013.  Under  the  Abbott  Government, hundreds  of  children  have  experienced  prolonged  detention,  with  the  average  time  spent  in detention rising from three months in August 2013 to more than 14 months in January 2015. In doing this, governments have ignored numerous reports, including from the Commission’s previous national inquiry in 2004, which have outlined detention’s shocking impacts on the mental health of children.

At the public hearings conducted as part of the inquiry, previous Ministers for Immigration Chris Bowen and Scott Morrison both acknowledged that thedetention of children was not an effective
mechanism for deterring boat arrivals or preventingdeaths at sea.

1
Without a clear policy purpose, it is bewildering that this deeply harmful and exorbitantly costly practice has continued for so long. For more than a decade under successive governments, we have watched Australia’s detention policies  go  through  the  same  cycle:  people  are  kept in  indefinite  detention  unnecessarily  for prolonged periods until the human and financial costs of doing so become so high as to compel the Government to make greater use of community-based alternatives. It is high time that we put an end to this cycle.

Australia is the only country in the world to detain children as its first option. In the United Kingdom, for example, the number of children simultaneously in UK immigration detention over the past three years  has  not  exceeded  four,  a  tiny  fraction  of  the number  detained  by  Australia.
2
The  United Kingdom  also  has  legislative  limits  on  the  detention  of  children  which  restrict  the  detention  of families with children in pre-removal centres to a maximum of 72 hours, or seven days if authorised by the responsible minister.

Effective alternatives to detention already exist in Australia – and have done so for a decade. We urge the Australian Government to expand the use ofthese alternatives, ensure that they are used
routinely  for  children  and  families  and  develop  safe  alternatives  to  detention  for  children  now detained in Nauru.

We  reject  the  argument  that  the  welfare  of  asylum  seeker  children  sent  to  Nauru  is  the  sole responsibility of the Government of Nauru. The harmbeing inflicted on children detained there is a
1
Former Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said that detention was “not an effective deterrent” and thatthe “cost on children was too great for any deterrence value”. See Bowen, Chris, Testimony at the AHRC Public Hearings on 9 September 2014 (page 1), available at https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/Hon%20Chris%20Bowen.pdf; When asked if the “purpose of long-term detention[is] to deter people from coming to Australia by boat?”, MinisterScott Morrison said “no”. See Morrison, Scott, Testimony at the AHRC Public Hearings on 22 August 2014 (page 25), available at https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/Hon%20Scott%20Morrison%20Mr%20Bowles.pdf
2
A comparison of quarterly statistics for the detention of children in Australia and the UK from 2012 to 2014, compiled by Refugee Council of Australia, can be found at http://bit.ly/1CcOG6a.
page 2 direct result of Australia’s actions. Australia wasresponsible for sending children and their families to Nauru against their will, in full knowledge thatthey would face prolonged indefinite detention.

Australia remains responsible for funding the detention centre in Nauru; indeed, without Australia’s support, the centre would cease to operate. After  the  Commission’s  2004  report  into  the  detention  of  children,  the  Australian  Government pledged  that  children  would  be  detained  only  as  a  last  resort.  As  the Commission’s  new  report clearly  shows,  such  non-binding  political  promises  are  meaningless.  We  urge  the  Australian Parliament to:
1.  Introduce legislation to prevent children from being detained for immigration purposes in the future.
2.  End  the  offshore  processing  of  asylum  claims  and return  all  asylum  seekers  currently subject to offshore processing to Australia, prioritising children and their families.
3.  Refer allegations of child sexual abuse in Australian-funded detention centres to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. As the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has  ruled, “the detention of a child because of their or their parent’s migration status constitutes a child rights violation and always contravenes the principle of the best interests of the child.”
3
So long as Australia continues to detain children as a  measure  of  first  rather  than  last  resort;  so  long as  our  laws  fail  to  protect  children  against prolonged indefinite detention; so long as any child remains in detention as a result of Australia’s actions, we will be failing in our duty to protect the best interests of children in our care.

We  have  comprehensive,  consistent  and  irrefutable  evidence  of  the  harm  caused  by  prolonged indefinite detention. We have practical, humane andeffective solutions at our disposal. It’s time to end the detention of children once and for all. It’s time to stand up and say: never again.
This statement is supported by:
Refugee Council of Australia (statement coordinator)
A Just Cause
ACT Council of Social Service
ActionAid Australia
Adventist Development and Relief Agency Australia
Ahmadiyya Muslim Association of Australia
Aireys Inlet Rural Australians for Refugees
Amnesty International Australia
Anglican Social Responsibilities Commission, Diocese of Perth
Apollo Bay Rural Australians for Refugees
Asia Pacific Journalism Centre
Association for Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors (ASeTTS)
Association for the Wellbeing of Children in Health
Asylum Insight
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
Asylum Seekers Centre
Auburn Diversity Services Inc
Australian Afghan Hassanian Youth Association
Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition
Australian Baptist Ministries
Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce
Australian Coalition to End Immigration Detention of Children
Australian Council For International Development
Australian Council of Social Service
Australian Council of Trade Unions
Australian Doctors International
3
Committee on the Rights of the Child, The Rights of all Children in the Context of International Migration: Report of the 2012 Day of General
Discussion, paragraph 78, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/docs/discussion2012/ReportDGDChildrenAndMigration2012.pdf
page 3
Australian Jewish Democratic Society
Australian Lasallian (Asia-Pacific) Foundation
Australian Lutheran World Service
Australian National Committee on Refugee Women
Australian Refugee Association
Australia-Tamil Solidarity
Ballarat Catholic Diocesan Social Justice Commission
Ballarat Community Health
Balmain for Refugees
Baptcare (Victoria and Tasmania)
Baptist Care Australia
Baptistcare Incorporated (WA)
Bayside Refugee and Advocacy Association
Bellarine for Refugees
Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group
B’nai B’rith Australia/New Zealand
Border Crossing Observatory, Monash University
Braidwood Rural Australians for Refugees
Bridge for Asylum Seekers Foundation
Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project
Brisbane Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support Network (BRASS)
Broadway and Glebe Catholic Social Justice Group
Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia
Campus Refugee Rights Club, University of Melbourne
Canberra Refugee Support
Caritas Australia
Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Office of Justice and Peace
Catholic Diocese of Parramatta, Social Justice Office
Catholic Diocese of Toowoomba, Social Justice Commission
Catholic Immigration Office (Sydney)
Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, Archdiocese of Brisbane
Catholic Social Justice Commission, Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn
Catholic Social Services Australia
Catholics in Coalition for Justice and Peace
Centacare South West NSW
Central Victorian Refugee Support Network
Centre for Advocacy Support and Education for Refugees
Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University
Centre for Multicultural Youth
Centre for Refugee Research, University of NSW
Centrecare (WA)
ChildFund Australia
Children’s Healthcare Australasia
Children’s Rights International
ChilOut
Christian Brothers Oceania
Christian Brothers Tasmania
Coalition for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees
Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine (Sydney)
cohealth
Combined Refugee Action Group
Common Grace
Communicare
Community Migrant Resource Centre
Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes in NSW
Council of Social Service of NSW
Cyber Christian Community WA
Darwin Asylum Seekers’ Support and Advocacy Network
Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Overseas Aid Fund
Domestic Violence Service Management
page 4
Dominican Sisters of Eastern Australia and the Solomon Islands
Edmund Rice Centre Mirrabooka
Edmund Rice Centre Sydney
Edmund Rice Network Tasmania
Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria
Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia
Federation of Liberian Communities in Australia
FHEAL Foundation
Fitzroy Learning Network
Geelong Interchurch Social Justice Network
Geelong Refugee Action and Information Network
Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children
God’s Dwelling Place Bethany City Church
Habitat for Humanity Australia
Help – Himalayan Youth Foundation
Horn of Africa Relief and Development Agency
House of Hospitality, Broadmeadow (NSW)
House of Welcome
House of Welcome Ballarat
Humanitarian Research Partners
Hunter Ecumenical Social Justice Network
Immigration Advice and Rights Centre
Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (NSW)
Indigenous Social Justice Association
International Commission of Jurists Australia
International Detention Coalition
International Society for Human Rights – Australia
Islamic Council of Victoria
Islamic Relief Australia
Jesuit Refugee Service Australia
Jesuit Social Services
Josephite Community Aid
Justice Connect
Justice for Palestine Matters, Sydney
Justice, Ecology and Development Office, Catholic Archdiocese of Perth
Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission, Carmelites of Australia and Timor Leste
Kommonground
Labor for Refugees
Lentara UnitingCare
Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services
Loreto Sisters of Australia and South East Asia
MacKillop Family Services
Marist Sisters
Marrickville Peace Group
Melaleuca Refugee Centre
Mercy Community Services
Mercy Works
Migrant Resource Centre of South Australia
Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Justice and Peace Centre
Multicultural Council of Tasmania
Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network Australia
Nonlethal Security for Peace Campaign
Northern Settlement Services
NSW Teachers Federation
NT Council of Social Service
Occupational Opportunities for Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Oromia Support Group Australia
Oxfam Australia
Partners Relief and Development Australia
Pax Christi Australia
page 5
Pax Christi Queensland
Pax Christi Victoria
Peace and Justice Commission, NSW Ecumenical Council
Peace and Social Justice Network, Religious Societyof Friends (Quakers)
Plan International Australia
Presentation People’s Social Justice Group, Ballina
Presentation Sisters Lismore
Presentation Sisters Queensland
Presentation Sisters Wagga Wagga
Quakers, WA Regional Meeting
Queenscliff Rural Australians for Refugees
Refugee Advice and Casework Service
Refugee Advocacy Network
Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre
Rural Australians for Refugees, Bendigo
Rural Australians for Refugees, Daylesford and District
Safe Asylum
Salvation Army – Eastern Territory
Sanctuary Australia Foundation
Save the Children Australia
SCALES Community Legal Centre
SCARF Inc, Illawarra
Settlement Council of Australia
Settlement Services International
Sisters of St Joseph
Sisters of the Good Samaritan
Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, Australia
Social Justice Ministry, Catholic Parish of Chatswood
Sophia’s Spring Uniting Church, East Brunswick
Spring Creek Community House
St Bede’s Social Justice Group, Braidwood
St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia
Stand Up: Jewish Commitment to a Better World
Surf Coast Rural Australians for Refugees
Sydney Justice and Peace Coalition
Sydney Multicultural Community Services
Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Support
Tasmanian Catholic Justice and Peace Commission
Tasmanian Council of Social Service
The Grail Australia (NSW)
The Tasmania Opportunity
Townsville Multicultural Support Group
Trinity Aid for Refugees
Union of Australian Women Victoria
Uniting Church in Australia
Victorian Council of Social Service
Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment (VOICE) Australia
WA Council of Social Service
Warrnambool Rural Australians for Refugees
West Wagga San Isidore Refugee Committee
Western Sydney Community Forum
Women and the Australian Church
Women’s Health in the South East
World Wellness Group Ltd