What did VOICE accomplish in 2017 and 2018?

See the pictures below that highlight what we achieved in the past two years, from four main activities: Training, Civil Society, Advocacy and Refugee Resettlement.

We achieved this not only by the efforts of VOICE members but also through the support of volunteers, VOICE affiliates, partners and especially our enthusiastic supporters in Vietnam and around the world. Thank you to all of you who have made this success possible!

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VOICE holds Vietnam accountable to human rights agreements on mid-term campaign

VOICE delegation at the UN office in Geneva. From left to right: Anna Nguyen, Le Thi Minh Ha, and Dinh Thao. Source: VietnamUPR Facebook page

Haiy Le, October 9, 2017: When the human rights group, Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment (VOICE), sent a delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2014, the delegation was made up of three men and all were citizens of Vietnam. This year, the trio is all female.

“We did not purposely want to have a female delegation,” said Anna Nguyen, Director of Programs at VOICE. A more interesting point, she explained, are the different backgrounds — and continents — the three women come from. Anna is a lawyer born and raised in Australia. Joining her is Le Thi Minh Ha, the wife of blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh who was sentenced in March 2016 to five years in prison by the Vietnamese government for founding and operating a successful independent news blog. The third member is Dinh Thao, a Vietnamese citizen who left her career as a medical doctor to become an activist working out of VOICE’s headquarters in the Philippines and is now stationed in Belgium as the European Union Program Coordinator.

As activists waging a long war against Vietnam’s authoritarian government, they are unbothered by the comments littered on the VOICE Facebook page calling them “dogs” and “liars” who should “die.” The group suspects the comments come from hacks paid by the Vietnamese government. In the spirit of free expression though, the malicious comments are free to stay. It’s the opposite of what Hanoi is doing.

In 2017 alone, Vietnam’s one-party Communist government has detained or sentenced 16 activists under the country’s draconian penal code, and specifically Article 88, which makes it a crime to “propagate” against the government. Human Rights Watch has reported on the country’s long history limiting freedom of expression, which has sent more than 100 activists to prisons. The country’s repression has led to thousands of refugees seeking political freedoms and economic opportunities to live and work elsewhere under more democratic and transparent governance.

VOICE was founded in 1997 as a legal aid office in the Philippines to help stateless Vietnamese refugees resettle in countries, including Australia, the U.S. and Canada. Since then, the nonprofit’s mission has branched out to include advocacy for human rights and the rule of law in Vietnam.

Anna’s career has evolved somewhat similarly. She began her career as a refugee lawyer in Australia where for three years she worked with asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam. “That’s when I started to learn about the human rights situation in Vietnam. Instead of helping people leave the country, I wanted to explore why people were leaving in the first place. The war ended in 1975 but why are people still leaving?”

Since joining VOICE in 2014, Anna’s work includes communicating with foreign governments and multilateral organizations, and persuading them to use their influence to put pressure on Vietnam. She also makes sure these foreign bodies hear from independent activists and civil society groups in Vietnam. “Many of these activists are banned from traveling and don’t have a platform, so it’s great that we can give them a voice,” she said.

In 2014, a 23-member delegation from Hanoi met with the U.N. Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a review process on the human rights records of all UN Member States. The Vietnamese government agreed to the implementation of some UPR recommendations and rejected others, notably the release of prisoners and the revision of vague national security laws that are used to suppress human rights.

The goals of this year’s Mid-term UPR Advocacy Campaign are to follow up on the recommendations and to advocate for the prisoners, particularly Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, a technology entrepreneur and blogger who was sentenced to 16 years for “conducting activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” on January 2010; Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, better known by her pen name, Mother Mushroom, is a blogger convicted of “anti state propaganda” on June 2017 and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment; and Tran Thi Nga, a blogger sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment on July 2017 for “anti state propaganda” in her sharing of articles and videos highlighting abuses tied to environmental crises and political corruption. In the past couple of months, there has been a rise in the number of female activists targeted by the government. Mother Mushroom wrote that she was motivated to create a better future for her two children.

The mid-term campaign, which runs from September 15 through October 10, has been in the planning stages since the last UPR. The delegation has organized a marathon of meetings with foreign bodies in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and the Czech Republic to give suggestions on how these groups can exert pressure on Hanoi.

In a recent case that has made headlines for its Cold War style of abductions, a Vietnamese asylum seeker was snatched off the streets of Berlin in broad daylight on August 24 — one day before his asylum hearing — and whisked back to Vietnam on corruption charges. In a meeting with Germany’s Office of Foreign Affairs on September 15, VOICE raised concerns to Annette Knobloch, Deputy Head of Unit of South East Asia/Pacific.

“We made them a number of suggestions and then a few days after our meeting, it was announced in the news that Germany had expelled another diplomat,” Anna said.

As Vietnam’s biggest trading partner in the EU, Germany has influential leverage through its purse strings. There’s also Germany’s development aid to Vietnam, which in 2015 was $257 million distributed over two years.

On top of the meetings with Germany and other foreign governments, the delegates have communicated with UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defender, Michel Forst, and CIVICUS, a group working to strengthen civil society. VOICE’s collaboration with CIVICUS, which has consultative status with the UN, gave VOICE the opportunity to present in front of the UN Human Rights Council on September 19.

“We call on the Vietnamese government to implement in good faith the UPR recommendations it accepted in 2014,” Thao read in her statement. “We call on the UN Member States to urge Vietnam to free all prisoners of conscience.”

Thao said the presentation alone has made the 25-day campaign a successful one for her, in spite of the stressful logistics, the back-to-back meetings and the harassment from the Vietnamese government that she, her colleagues and family in Vietnam have received due to her activism.

After the campaign ends, the delegates plan to follow up on the meetings and maintain the contacts they met. “It’s really easy to meet people but if there’s nothing done after that, there’s no point in meeting them,” Anna acknowledged. They will also start making plans for the 3rd UPR in January 2019, which will involve more people, workshops and a UN session dedicated to addressing Vietnam’s human rights situation.

Being a human rights defender is like running in a marathon, Anna described. “You cannot expect to see the finish line straight away. It’s hard and arduous, and you will need to eventually pass on the baton to your comrades and colleagues. But like all marathons, you will eventually see the finish line.”

Haiy Le is a freelance journalist and previously worked at the San Francisco Chronicle and Newsela. She grew up listening to her father’s stories from the the Vietnam War and became more interested in Vietnamese foreign affairs while studying International Relations and Communication at Stanford University. Follow her @HaiyLe

© 2017 The 88 Project

 

Amnesty International: Viet Nam: activists held incommunicado may face life in prison

URGENT ACTION
ACTIVISTS HELD INCOMMUNICADO MAY FACE LIFE IN PRISON
Three Vietnamese activists, Trương Minh Đức, Nguyễn Trung Tôn, and Phạm Văn Trội, are being held incommunicado at B14 prison in Hà Nội after their arrests on 30 July 2017. They have a range of pre-existing health conditions that require treatment and face a sentence of up to life imprisonment or capital punishment.

Trương Minh Đức, Nguyễn Trung Tôn, and Phạm Văn Trội are members of the Brotherhood for Democracy, a group formed by human rights lawyer Nguyễn Văn Đài in 2013 to peacefully advocate for democracy in Viet Nam. They were arrested separately on 30 July 2017 and are accused of “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the People’s Administration” under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code. The vaguely-worded offence,which falls under the overbroad “national security” section of the Code, provides for a sentence of up to life imprisonment or capital punishment.All three men suffer from pre-existing health conditions that require access to medication and medical care. Trương Minh Đức has a heart disease and high blood pressure. Following a stroke in mid-May, he needs daily access to a number of medications in order to safely control his condition and help prevent another stroke or a heart attack. Nguyễn Trung Tôn suffers from kidney and prostate problems for which he takes medication. In addition, he has badly injured knees after he was abducted and beaten by unknown men in February 2017. Phạm Văn Trội has stomach ulcers for which he takes medication. Although their wives have attempted to pass on medicine via prison authorities, they are unsure whether it has been delivered, since they have not been able to visit their husbands.

All three men suffer from pre-existing health conditions that require access to medication and medical care. Trương Minh Đức has a heart disease and high blood pressure. Following a stroke in mid-May, he needs daily access to a number of medications in order to safely control his condition and help prevent another stroke or a heart attack. Nguyễn Trung Tôn suffers from kidney and prostate problems for which he takes medication. In addition, he has badly injured knees after he was abducted and beaten by unknown men in February 2017. Phạm Văn Trội has stomach ulcers for which he takes medication. Although their wives have attempted to pass on medicine via prison authorities, they are unsure whether it has been delivered, since they have not been able to visit their husbands.Incommunicado detention can facilitate torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and when prolonged can itself amount to such practices under international human rights law and standards. In addition, the right to promptly communicate with a lawyer and prepare a

Incommunicado detention can facilitate torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and when prolonged can itself amount to such practices under international human rights law and standards. In addition, the right to promptly communicate with a lawyer and prepare a defence is an essential part of the right to a fair trial.Please write immediately in Vietnamese, English, or your own language urging Vietnamese authorities to:

Please write immediately in Vietnamese, English, or your own language urging Vietnamese authorities to:- Release Trương Minh Đức, Nguyễn Trung Tôn, and Phạm Văn Trội immediately and unconditionally as they have been deprived of their liberty solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association;

– Release Trương Minh Đức, Nguyễn Trung Tôn, and Phạm Văn Trội immediately and unconditionally as they have been deprived of their liberty solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association;- Pending their release, ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and are allowed access to their family, a lawyer of their choice, and adequate medical care; and

– Pending their release, ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and are allowed access to their family, a lawyer of their choice, and adequate medical care; and- Ensure an immediate end to the arbitrary arrests and harassment of members of the Brotherhood for Democracy and other activists who peacefully express their views.

– Ensure an immediate end to the arbitrary arrests and harassment of members of the Brotherhood for Democracy and other activists who peacefully express their views.PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 20 OCTOBER 2017 TO:

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 20 OCTOBER 2017 TO:

Prime Minister
Nguyễn Xuân Phúc
Prime Minister’s Office
Hà Nội, Việt Nam
Email:
nguoiphatngonchinhphu@chinhphu.vn
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Public Security
To Lam
44 Yết Kiêu St. Hoàn Kiếm District Hà
Nội, Việt Nam
Fax: + 844 3823 1872
c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Email: ttll.mfa@mofa.gov.vn
Salutation: Dear Minister

And copies to:

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy
Prime Minister
Phạm Bình Minh
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
1 Ton That Dam Street, Ba Dinh district
Hà Nội, Việt Nam
Fax: + 844 3823 1872

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:
Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

On the morning of 30 July 2017, Trương Minh Đức and his wife were stopped on a street in Hà Nội by Vietnamese officials in plain clothes and forcibly escorted to a local police station where an arrest warrant was read. The same morning Phạm Văn Trội and Nguyễn Trung Tôn were arrested by police at their homes in Hà Nội and Thanh Hoa province, respectively, where arrest warrants were also read out. A fourth individual, Nguyễn Bắc Truyển, was forcibly disappeared on the same morning (see https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa41/6964/2017/en/%20for%20further%20information/). According to State-run media, all four men are alleged to have connections to human rights lawyer Nguyễn Văn Đài who was himself arrested in Hà Nội on 16 December 2015 and, along with his colleague Le Thu Ha, is charged with “committing propaganda” against the State under Article 88 of the Penal Code and “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the People’s Administration” under Article 79.

Trương Minh Đức is a former journalist and prisoner of conscience. Prior to his arrest he worked as an administrator for the Brotherhood for Democracy and as an advocate in the Viet Labour movement, educating workers about their human rights. He was arrested in 2007 and imprisoned for five years after being convicted of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State” under Article 258 of the Penal Code for reporting on land grabs in a number of Vietnamese publications. In May 2009, his detention was found to be arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (Opinion 1/2009), however he remained in prison until the end of his sentence. Since his release from prison in 2012, authorities have frequently raided his home, making it difficult for his family to earn a living from renting spare rooms at the back of their property. His adult children have been repeatedly questioned by officials about his activities and he has been badly beaten on a number of occasions by men in plain clothes whom he recognized as security officials.

Nguyễn Trung Tôn is a Protestant pastor and former prisoner of conscience who has written about and promoted freedom of religion in Viet Nam. He was arrested in January 2011 in connection with his writings and imprisoned for two years after being convicted of “conducting propaganda” against the State under Article 88 of the Penal Code. Nguyễn Trung Tôn and his family have been harassed for many years by authorities and unidentified assailants. Human waste, oil, and dirt have been thrown at both a market stall operated by his wife and their family home on a number of occasions. In February 2017, Nguyễn Trung Tôn and a friend were abducted in Quang Binh province by unidentified men and badly beaten. He was hospitalized and required surgery to repair injuries to his knees.

Phạm Văn Trội is a writer, activist, and former prisoner of conscience. He has provided advice to workers and land grab victims and written about human rights and democracy. He was arrested in September 2008 for his writings promoting multi-party democracy and imprisoned for four years, including six months in solitary confinement, after being convicted of “conducting propaganda” against the State under Article 88 of the Penal Code. In May 2009, his detention was found to be arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (Opinion 1/2009), however, he remained in prison until the end of his sentence.
Viet Nam is in the midst of a sustained crackdown on human rights which has resulted in the arrest and arbitrary detention of at least fifteen peaceful activists and government critics since January 2017. Prison conditions in Viet Nam are harsh, with inadequate food and health care, falling far short of the minimum requirements set out in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules) and other international standards.

Name: Trương Minh Đức , Nguyễn Trung Tôn, and Phạm Văn Trội
Gender: male

UA: 204/17 Index: ASA 41/7059/2017 Issue Date: 8 September 2017

Los Angeles Times: Inspired to ‘build trust and work together,’ Tibetans and Vietnamese hold human rights conference in Little Saigon

President Lobsang Sangay, head of the Tibetan government-in-exile in India, center right, prays with monks at a temple as Hoi Trinh, a lawyer and expert in international refugee law, stands nearby during a human rights conference Saturday in Orange County’s Little Saigon. (Anh Do / Los Angeles Times)

The Tibetan leader, draped in a silky, traditional loose coat, joined a group of monks in prayers with a single purpose: charting a path toward peace.

Near Lobsang Sangay, the Harvard-educated ruler of the Tibetan government in exile, stood Hoi Trinh, a Vietnamese and Australian lawyer lauded as an expert in international refugee law and policies.

In an unprecedented gathering in Westminster to highlight human rights abuses, both Trinh and Sangay described themselves as men who come from nations “on the same journey,” whose people struggle under communist brutality but refuse to give up fighting for freedom.

Basic human rights and freedom continue to be denied to 6 million Tibetans inside their homeland, exploited for its rich minerals under China’s control, and to 95 million Vietnamese in Vietnam, resulting in beatings, deaths, imprisonment without trials and self-immolations, they said.

The crowd of nearly 250 people reserved its loudest cheers for Sangay, who said: “Communism is 100 years old. Buddhism is 2,500 years old. There is no competition between the two,” praising the religion’s endurance “because it has this innate strength. The foundation is solid.”

Even if Chinese leaders destroyed more than 90% of Tibet’s monasteries and nunneries after its takeover of their homeland in 1959, expatriate Tibetans working with the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader, succeeded in spreading Buddhism back into Tibet and across the globe, Sangay said.

New dharma centers that have opened in past decades around the world show the vitality and beauty of the religion, he added. “Your struggles are very similar to ours. We are in solidarity,” Sangay said, in a nod to listeners at the great hall of the Dieu Ngu Temple in Little Saigon.

Although Tibetans are forbidden to own a photo of the Dalai Lama, or shout a slogan of democracy on the streets of Tibet — at risk of going to prison and being tortured — Sangay said they are not intimidated by the Chinese government. “You can buy goods with money. You can force action with guns,” he said. “But, ultimately, if you want to win the hearts and minds of people, you need respect.”

Hội Thảo Nhân Quyền Tây Tạng - Việt Nam, Xây Dựng Lòng Tin Và Cùng Nhau Hành Động, Tong Thong Tay Tang Lobsang Sangay
Crowds follow President Lobsang Sangay, right, head of the Tibetan government-in-exile, as he hugs a young fan Saturday at Dieu Ngu Temple in Little Saigon. Former Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen attended the human rights summit. (Anh Do / Los Angeles Times)

Almost every local Vietnamese American political figure — from members of the Garden Grove Unified School District board, to council members from Garden Grove, Fountain Valley and Westminster, to a county supervisor and state senator — made appearances to back the human rights campaign. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), who has fought against the repression of Tibetans, sat in the front row, waving to immigrants as they held up their cellphones to capture him speaking.

Two years ago, the Freedom House index listed Syria as the least free country in the world — with Tibet ranked No. 2.

Trinh and Sangay attacked China as “the biggest bully,” with Trinh explaining that he preferred to move Saturday’s focus beyond human rights issues, which have been carefully documented by bloggers, the media or non-governmental organizations, to talking about solutions. Trinh asked people to train activists and provide financial support to groups fighting for human rights in Southeast Asia.

“Don’t just listen, you must get involved,” Trinh urged.

Many in the audience were left inspired by the speakers.

“Finally, there is guidance,” pharmacist Elise Phan, 43, said after Trinh’s remarks. “I’m grateful there is Vietnamese young talent out there who sacrifice their professional life to raise human rights in our country. That is everything to me.”

“Definitely, we both can help each other in our struggles,” says Nawang Lhautara, 67, a retired insurance executive from Ojai who also attended. “We need to combine our heads and figure out more of what to do.”

Chog Tsering, a board member of the Tibetan Assn. of Southern California who helped organize Saturday’s event by partnering with the Vietnamese American Buddhist Congregation in the USA, agreed.

“The right thing to do is to build trust and work together,” Tsering said. “We have the same hearts.”

 

Source from Los Angeles Times

The Guardian: How Vietnam locked up its most famous blogger – Mother Mushroom

One of Vietnam’s most influential political bloggers, given a courage award by Melania Trump, faces a decade behind bars for her ‘reactionary’ work.

Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as Mother Mushroom, on trial in the city of Nha Trang. Photograph: Vietnam News Agency/EPA

“Each person only has a life, but if I had the chance to choose again I would still choose my way.”

They are the words of one of Vietnam’s most influential bloggers — known by her online pseudonym, Mother Mushroom — minutes before she was handed the shock sentence of a decade in prison. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh directed her defiant comments at her 61-year-old mother, who was watching a live feed in a room next door as she was not allow into the courtroom.

The 37-year-old was accused of defaming Vietnam’s communist regime in her blogs and interviews with foreign media.

“I clapped my hands in the room, where 20 security officials looked at me with very angry eyes, but I was not afraid; I was OK, very proud of her,” said Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan.

Arrested in October while attempting to visit another dissident in prison, Quynh, 37, has already spent nine months behind bars, in what her lawyer said were desperate conditions.

She subsisted only on a diet of anchovies and spinach soup for the first seven months, and was denied both sanitary pads and underwear, Vo An Don said.

After Quynh was arrested on 10 October, her mother heard nothing about her whereabouts or wellbeing until a brief reunion in prison hours before her 29 June trial for crimes against the state.

The months had taken their toll on her daughter, Lan told the Guardian in a phone interview from her home in the southern coastal city of Nha Trang. Quynh appeared sickly during their meeting, she said.

“I said: ‘My dear daughter, now I believe you are still alive.’ But she looked weak with very pale skin,” she added.

Vietnam is infamous for its limits on freedom of expression, yet Mother Mushroom’s detention and unusually lengthy sentence raised fresh alarm among the country’s blogging community, which avoids the censorship of state-control print media. The US state department quickly called for all prisoners of conscience to be released immediately.

While Quynh has been branded a “reactionary” by the state for her anti-government blogging, her friends and family defend her as a champion of free expression in a country where dissent against single-party rule is outlawed.

“My daughter has done a normal thing in an abnormal society, so she has to pay the price of prison and being denounced,” Lan said.

Quynh rose to fame in Vietnam’s blogosphere in the late 2000s for her doggedly independent citizen journalism. A founding member of the underground Vietnamese Bloggers Network, she is especially passionate about environmentalism, police brutality and Vietnam’s dispute with China over control of the South China Sea.

Lan said her daughter’s political awakening began after studying foreign languages in university.

Upon discovering the pluralistic online world, Quynh came to her mother with difficult questions.

“She asked me: ‘Mum, do you know this or that [about the government]?’ I said I did, she questioned me, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’” recalled Lan.

“I told her I knew, but in this society we are living in, it is not the society where you can speak out, and they will denounce you.”

Quynh has since become a prominent figure outside Vietnam, and has championed efforts in Vietnamese civil society to hold political discussions on Facebook. The government has become so angered by the movement that it has called on all companies in Vietnam to stop advertising on YouTube and Facebook.

The Guardian: How Vietnam locked up its most famous blogger – Mother Mushroom
Quynh championed efforts in Vietnamese civil society to hold political discussions on Facebook. Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/AAP

In March the US first lady, Melania Trump, awarded Quynh the International Women of Courage Award, which Vietnam said “was not appropriate and of no benefit to the development of the relations between the two countries”.

Quynh’s friends described her as frank and hot-tempered but true to her word.

“She always spoke out what she was thinking, so that’s why it’s not good for her when she caused trouble with such a personality, but she was a person who always does what she says she will,” said Trinh Kim Tien, a 27-year-old Ho Chi Minh City-based activist.

Quynh’s last posts on Facebook, her favoured blogging medium before her detention, were a combination of repostings of articles by other activists and brief, poetic, biting attacks on the state.

“What kind of a society is it where people responsible for their [high] positions, where the officials consider the citizens more stupid than pigs?” she wrote on 29 September.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said her involvement in protests against the Taiwanese-owned Formosa Ha Tinh Steel plant in north-central Vietnam, which was linked to a catastrophic fish die-off in 2016, was the last straw for the authorities.

“Mother Mushroom’s prominent ties to the anti-Formosa movement, which the government is increasingly viewing as a security challenge to its authority, means she became the ideal candidate for a heavy sentence designed to sideline her and intimidate others,” Robertson said.

The Guardian: How Vietnam locked up its most famous blogger – Mother Mushroom
Environmentalist protesters demand that the Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa leave Vietnam. Photograph: Bennett Murray for the Guardian

 

Human Rights Watch says there are about 110 known political prisoners in Vietnam, although the country denies holding any. Speaking at a press conference on the day of the trial, foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang said “all violations of laws must be extremely punished in accordance with the laws of Vietnam”.

Pham Than Nghien, a friend of Quynh whose own blogging led to her being imprisoned from 2008 to 2012, said she cried when the verdict was delivered.

“While I wasn’t astonished because she had committed many crimes according to the regime … I could feel my hands and legs shiver,” she said.

“We’re friends, we’re also both women, and I feel sympathy for her children, her family.”

Quynh’s mother, Lan, is now tasked with raising her two grandchildren while their mother remains in prison. Unless the state grants Quynh clemency the children will grow up parentless.

“I feel empty now,” Lan said.

The New York Times: With Social Media, Vietnam’s Dissidents Grow Bolder Despite Crackdown

HANOI, Vietnam — A prominent blogger and environmental activist in Vietnam was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison on charges of national security offenses, including sharing anti-state propaganda on social media.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, better known by her online handle Mother Mushroom, had been held incommunicado since she was arrested in October, and attendance at her trial was strictly controlled.

But barely one hour after the verdict was handed down on Thursday, one of Ms. Quynh’s lawyers summarized his arguments and posted her final statement at the trial to his 61,000 Facebook followers.

New York Times: Nhờ mạng xã hội, các nhà bất đồng chính kiến ở Việt Nam ngày càng quả cảm bất chấp các cuộc đàn áp
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, the Vietnamese blogger known as Mother Mushroom, at her trial Thursday. A lawyer posted a statement from her on Facebook. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“I hope that everyone will speak up and fight, overcome their own fears to build a better country,” she said, according to the lawyer. The statement was reposted thousands of times.

In authoritarian Vietnam, the internet has become the de facto forum for the country’s growing number of dissenting voices. Facebook connections in particular have mobilized opposition to government policies; they played a key role in mass protests against the state’s handling of an environmental disaster last year. Now, the government is tightening its grip on the internet, arresting and threatening bloggers, and pressing Facebook and YouTube to censor what appears on their sites.

“Facebook is being used as an organizing tool, as a self-publishing platform, as a monitoring device for people when they are being detained and when they get released,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

Facebook is being used “to connect communities that otherwise wouldn’t be connected,” he said.

Nguyen Anh Tuan, 27, a pro-democracy activist, said the growing number of dissidents forging connections through social media had emboldened him.

The first time the police interrogated him in 2011, he said, he felt utterly alone. His parents and friends disapproved of his political writings, and he knew few other people he could turn to for help.

Mr. Tuan still faces police harassment and his passport has been confiscated. But the most recent time he was called in for questioning, he posted a copy of the summons to Facebook, along with a satirical note demanding to be paid for the time he spent in custody.

His note went viral, and other people followed suit, posting their own police summonses on Facebook and asking for compensation. “Regarding activism, I cannot feel lonely anymore,” he said.

New York Times: Nhờ mạng xã hội, các nhà bất đồng chính kiến ở Việt Nam ngày càng quả cảm bất chấp các cuộc đàn áp
Nguyen Anh Tuan, a human rights activist, said that when police interrogated him in 2011, he had no one to turn to. But now with supporters on Facebook, “I cannot feel lonely anymore,” he said. Credit Quinn Ryan Mattingly for The New York Times

Vietnam’s Facebook users — who now number 45 million, almost half the country’s population — use the site to organize prison visits and vigils outside police stations for detainees, and to solicit donations for political prisoners. And dissidents are increasingly migrating political and personal blogs, which can be easily blocked by the government, onto Facebook, which is so widely used that blocking it entirely would not be feasible.

Mr. Tuan helps run a fund that supports the families of prisoners of conscience, including Ms. Quynh’s mother and two young children. He said that much of the support now came from people inside the country sending money from their personal bank accounts, which the state can trace. In the past, he said, overseas Vietnamese communities drove most of the dissent and supplied most of the money.

“They know very well that they could be checked by the government, but they dare to do it,” he said of his local donors.

That has not gone unnoticed by the government, which is also asserting its authority in new ways. Ms. Quynh is one of over 100 bloggers and activists jailed in Vietnam, according to Human Rights Watch. Pham Minh Hoang, another popular blogger, was stripped of his citizenship and deported last week to France, where he also holds citizenship.

The government has strategically cut access to Facebook when protests are expected, and earlier this year asked both Facebook and YouTube to help it eliminate fake accounts and other “toxic” content, like anti-government material, saying it had identified up to 8,000 YouTube videos that fit that description, according to the local newspaper Tuoi Tre. The government also warned Vietnamese companies that their ads must not appear next to that sort of content.

Facebook has said its policy is to abide by local laws, although there was no indication it had removed content in Vietnam thus far.

Nguyen Quang A, a retired computer scientist and former Communist party member who is now a dissident, said he felt the human rights situation was as bad as ever.

Last week, shortly before a planned interview, he was picked up by police near his house and taken for a five-and-a-half-hour drive to the seaside and back. He said he had been similarly detained 11 other times in the past year and a half.

He suggested the government was under increasing pressure from citizens frustrated by its handling of recent environmental and land issues. When a chemical spill at the Formosa Steel company killed tons of fish last year, outrage coalesced online, where protests were organized, photographs of the disaster spread rapidly and the hashtag #Ichoosefish became a rallying cry.

“I guess that they are too afraid,” Mr. Quang A said. “They see the situation is too dangerous for them, and they see peaceful activists as a very dangerous enemy.”

In a report released last month, Human Rights Watch detailed what it called a “disturbing trend” of bloggers and activists being beaten on the street by thugs known as “con do.” It tallied 36 such attacks from January 2015 to this April, only one of which the police investigated.

New York Times: Nhờ mạng xã hội, các nhà bất đồng chính kiến ở Việt Nam ngày càng quả cảm bất chấp các cuộc đàn áp
Pham Anh Cuong, left, was alarmed by photographs online showing how brutally an activist, Nguyen Chi Tuyen, right, had been beaten by five men, prompting him to become more politically outspoken. Credit Quinn Ryan Mattingly for The New York Times

The report relies partly on the activists’ own photos and videos of their injuries, often filmed shakily on smartphones and quickly shared online.

Jonathan London, a Vietnam specialist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said that despite recent repression, the transformation wrought by the internet in a short period had been “astonishing and hopeful.”

It is “remarkable that in a country that as recently as 15 or 20 years ago had one of the lowest rates of telephone usage in the world has thrust rapidly into an era of 24-hour news and continuous social and political criticism accessible to everyone,” he said.

Pham Anh Cuong, 45, an electrical engineer, was not outspoken about politics until two years ago, when an activist he followed online, Nguyen Chi Tuyen, 43, was severely beaten by five men. Mr. Cuong saw photographs of Mr. Tuyen’s bloody face and was alarmed by the brutality of the attack.

Today, he considers himself “one who raises my voice,” if not fully a dissident. His goal is to share information with family and friends, rather than depend on the mainstream news media, which is nearly all state-owned.

“The very first time I wrote on Facebook, nobody even ‘liked’ it — they were scared of pressing the like button,” he said. “Now people are starting to like and they are starting to share as well.”

Offline, he now considers Mr. Tuyen and other dissidents friends, and several of them play together on a soccer team, the No-U FC. (“No-U” refers to a U-shaped line marking China’s bold territorial claims in the South China Sea, an issue that galvanized many Vietnamese dissidents several years ago.) A Facebook page meticulously tracks the team’s wins and losses, as well as its members’ frequent run-ins with the security police.

In a cafe in Hanoi last week, the two friends simultaneously chatted, chain-smoked and checked Facebook. They noticed a state media story criticizing Mother Mushroom for receiving a cash prize from a human rights group in Stockholm. Mr. Tuyen immediately tagged a Swedish diplomat to alert her to the piece and asked the rights group for comment.

The two began scrolling again.

“Here’s news from one of my friends, a doctor in Saigon, who just heard the news that Mother Mushroom is in debt,” Mr. Tuyen said.

“The doctor in Saigon raised his voice that we should contribute to give money to her family,” he said.

He typed for a moment, then looked up again.

“I just commented, ‘I will join.’”

By 

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

English vocabulary about Human rights

Tiếng Anh thực sự quan trọng với một nhà hoạt động xã hội, bởi lẽ để truyền tải tình hình Việt Nam được rộng rãi đến bạn bè trên thế giới, không có cách nào hơn  là sử dụng ngôn ngữ quốc tế này.

VOICE luôn xác định đào tạo tiếng Anh cho học viên là một trong những tiêu chí hàng đầu. Chúng tôi xin giới thiệu một loạt bài về từ vựng tiếng Anh quan trọng cho nhà hoạt động. Chủ đề lần này là về Nhân quyền:

Human rights: Nhân quyền

Universal rights: Các quyền phổ quát

Civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights: Các quyền dân sự, chính trị, kinh tế, xã hội và văn hóa

Freedom: Sự tự do

Personal human dignity and worth: Phẩm giá và giá trị cá nhân

Promote human rights: Thúc đẩy quyền con người

Denounce human-rights abuses: Lên án hành vi vi phạm nhân quyền

Human-rights violation: Vi phạm nhân quyền

Freedom, integrity and peace: Sự tự do, toàn vẹn và hòa bình

The right to freedom of expression and religion: Quyền tự do ngôn luận và tự do tín ngưỡng

Fundamental human rights: Các quyền con người cơ bản

To strive to provide human rights to all mankind regardless of gender, race, sexuality, and religion: Đấu tranh vì quyền con người cho tất cả mọi người, bất kể giới tính, chủng tộc, xu hướng tính dục và tín ngưỡng

Political context: Bối cảnh chính trị

Social context: Bối cảnh xã hội

Crimes against humanity: Tội ác chống lại nhân loại

To impose totalitarian rule: Áp đặt kiểu cai trị độc đoán

Inhumane treatment: Đối xử vô nhân đạo

Revolutions: Cách mạng

 

Gender inequality: Bất bình đẳng giới tính

Be at the bottom of the chain: Bị kiềm kẹp

The unequal and biased treatment: Đối xử không công bằng và thiên vị

The discriminations: Sự phân biệt đối xử

Roles and responsibilities: Vai trò và trách nhiệm

Gender pay gap: Sự khác biệt về mức lương giữa các giới

An unfairness against women: Sự bất công đối với phụ nữ

Promoting equality: Thúc đẩy sự bình đẳng

 

Same-sex Marriage: Hôn nhân đồng giới

To protest for their rights: Biểu tình đòi quyền

Social movement: Phong trào xã hội

To remove barriers: Gạt bỏ rào cản

The prohibition on marriage for same sex couples: Ngăn cấm hôn nhân đồng giới

To refuse to recognize same-sex marriages: Từ chối công nhận hôn nhân đồng giới

 

Racial discrimination: Phân biệt chủng tộc

Immigrants: Người nhập cư

Different skin colors: Màu da khác nhau

Different beliefs: Đức tin khác nhau

Racism: Chủ nghĩa phân biệt chủng tộc

The injustice caused by the native people: Sự bất công gây ra bởi người bản xứ

Unjust treatments: Đối xử bất công

Be isolated: Bị cô lập

Superior races: Chủng tộc ưu tú hơn

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.