June 2023 - Legal Initiatives for Vietnam (LIV) and the University of Berkeley International Human Rights Law Clinic (IHRLC) have filed a new petition for four detained Vietnamese international human rights defenders, with U.N. Special Procedures calling for immediate release. They are Nguyen Thuy Hanh, the founder of the 50K Fund; blogger Dinh Thi Thu Thuy; journalist Truong Chau Huu Danh; and environmental attorney Dang Dinh Bach. These activists have been subjected to criminal sanctions due to their criticism of the Vietnamese government. This new petition seeks the intervention of independent experts authorized to initiate official inquiries into individual cases and request the release of the activists.
Vi Tran, co-director of LIV and counsel for the activists, states, “Vietnam has draconian laws criminalizing freedom of expression and human rights work which it selectively enforces to silence dissenting voices.” She emphasizes that Vietnam's one-party state exerts control over nearly all aspects of public life, making international support a vital tool for the courageous human rights defenders within the country.
Likewise, Laurel Fletcher, co-director of the IHRLC, which collaborated with LIV to file the petition, adds that U.N Special Procedures is the only human rights mechanism available to the four detained activists that expose the world to their ongoing repression under the Vietnamese government. Emphasizing Vietnam’s membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Fletcher states that “[Vietnam] should be a human rights champion and cooperate with Special Procedures.”
The four imprisoned human rights defenders in the petition are currently facing unlawful treatment by Vietnamese authorities due to their expression of dissent regarding the government’s activities.
- Nguyen Thuy Hanh, was arrested in April 2021 and charged with violating Article 117, which criminalizes acts opposing the state. She is a land rights activist and founder of the 50K fund.
- Truong Chau Huu Danh, was a prominent journalist who worked for a state-run paper before reporting independently and founding the independent journalism platform Báo Sạch. He is imprisoned for violating Article 331, which criminalizes "abusing democratic freedoms which violates the interests of the state."
- Dinh Thi Thu Thuy, is serving a 7-year sentence for violating Article 117 through her Facebook posts in which she criticized many of the Vietnamese government’s public policies. She was convicted in January 2021 after a short 4-hour trial.
- Dang Dinh Bach, an environmental rights activist and lawyer, as well as the director of the registered nonprofit organization Law and Policy of Sustainable Development Research Center, is facing criminal charges related to alleged tax evasion under Article 200 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code. He was sentenced to 5 years on January 24, 2022.
U.N. Special Procedures has sent inquiries to Vietnam regarding the cases of these four human rights defenders in the past. Despite this, the Vietnamese government has largely disregarded them, resulting in the continued imprisonment of all four activists. However, Vi Tran remains hopeful. She says, “Vietnam must know that the world is watching,” and that “We [LIV and IHRLC] proudly file this petition to honor their [the imprisoned activists’] work and stand in solidarity with their families.”