Human rights activist Nguyen Dan Que sent to isolation in a forced labour camp

According to the sister, the jailed doctor is sick and needs treatment.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Vietnamese authorities have made Nguyen Dan Que's detention harsher. According to Dr Que's sister Quan Nguyen, the 62-year-old endocrinologist and human rights activist, who has been a target of government repression for many years, was moved to Lam Son camp, a hard labour camp for criminals located in a remote and isolated area of Thanh Hoa Province, almost 2,000 km (1,200 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City and more than 200 km (130 miles) south of the capital Ha Noi. Ms Quan is very worried about his health because Dr Que suffers from high blood pressure, peptic ulcers and kidney stones. He has already spent 20 years in prison or under house arrest. He has also been tortured. All this because he has openly called for a multiparty system in Viet Nam and an end to censorship.

His last arrest was on March 17, 2003, when he e-mailed a document to a relative in which he argued for political reforms and human rights guarantees in the country.

On July 29 of this year he was sentenced to two and half years in prison for "abusing democratic rights and infringing upon the interests of the State".

The activist's sister described how the authorities moved him to his new prison. "Few days before his transfer, his wife was instructed to provide him with more medications and money because they were going to move him to another prison far away from Saigon. He was unaware of the whole thing," she said. By transferring him the Viet Namese authorities "aim to isolate him, to punish him in hope that they could silence his voice," she added.

Since Dr. Que's transfer his wife has not yet been allowed to visit him. Should she be able she still would have to embark on a two-day trip just to get to the camp. In the meantime, she cannot talk to him by phone. In light of the situation, many are concerned that his health might further deteriorate as a result of prison authorities' indifference.

Dr Nguyen Dan Que founded the High Tide of Humanism Movement (Cao Tran Nhan Ban) and has been committed to helping the poor by providing medical care. He set up a free clinic staffed with volunteer doctors, nurses and medical students. He has also campaigned for a better prison system, for human rights protection and for the rights of Viet Nam's ethnic minorities.

This year the New York Academy of Sciences awarded him the 2004 Heinz R. Pagels Human Rights of Scientists Award. The honour comes "in recognition of his courage and singular moral responsibility as a medical doctor committed to the welfare and health care of the Viet Namese people and for peacefully promoting human rights in Viet Nam."

Viet Nam was a member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights between 2001 and 2003. It has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which guarantees (art. 19) "Everyone [. . .] the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice." (MA)