03/08/2017, 13.59
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Appeals to the government for the release of activists and dissidents mark International Women's Day in Vietnam

The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights highlights the plight of many women jailed or abused for their work in favour of human rights and democracy in the country. The group calls for changes to the Penal Code and political system to stop abuses. Jailed activists include prominent Catholic women.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – On the eve of International Women’s Day (8 March), Vietnamese and international NGOs have called on the Vietnamese government to release women jailed for crimes of opinion or for their struggle in favour of democracy and human rights in the country.

The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) issued an appeal to raise awareness in the international community of the situation of women activists targeted by Vietnam’s Communist government.

The VCHR wants changes to the provisions of the Penal Code used to imprison activists, namely articles 79, 88 and 258, along with decrees used by the authorities to jail women who support human rights and denounce abuses. The Code was adopted in 1999 to silence dissidents and all those fighting for real democracy in Vietnam.

The committee also calls on the government to begin political reforms promoting pluralism so that women can fully participate in the country’s social, economic, intellectual, and political development.

“[W]omen human rights defenders, bloggers, online journalists, land rights and worker rights activists, religious and political dissidents are the target of brutal attacks, harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests, and ill-treatment in detention simply for the peaceful advocacy or exercise of their human rights,” the VCHR said in its statement.

The organisation cited the example of Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (pictured). The 37-year-old Catholic blogger and human rights defender better known as Mother Mushroom, is one of the women held in Communist prisons.

She has been repeatedly harassed by authorities for commenting on social and political issues. Her latest action was to denounce the environmental disaster caused by the Formosa Plastics Group that has shocked the country.

Another woman activist is 40-year old human rights defender and labour rights advocate Tran Thi Nga. She was arrested on 21 January in northern Vietnam for violating Article 88 by “using the internet to spread propaganda videos and writings” against the state. She too has also been harassed and beaten for her activities, and now faces up to 20 years in prison.

The VCHR also cited the case of Tran Thi Thuy, 45, a Hoa Hao Buddhist, who is serving an eight-year sentence in prison for "activities aimed at overthrowing" the state because of her involvement in land rights.

Despite being critically ill from a tumor to her uterus, she has been denied medical care. Her treatment is a violation of the United Nations Convention against Torture, which Vietnam ratified in 2015.

Another important case involves Maria Ta Phong Tan, a Catholic blogger jailed for "anti-government propaganda". To protest her arrest, Maria’s mother set herself on fire and died from her injuries.

The activist went on a hunger strike to protest against the abuses she endured in prison. In September 2015, the authorities released her.

At present, the dissident lives in exile in the United States, where she continues her fight for human rights and democracy in Vietnam.

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