The Vietnamese government has stepped up its campaign of arrests and repression of activists, independent journalists, bloggers and citizens. Today there are at least 150 people sentenced for freedom of expression, another 15 in pre-trial detention. Vietnam is one of the four "closed" nations of Asia along with China, Laos and North Korea.
Hanoi (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Over the course of the past year, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures taken to contain it, Vietnam has stepped up its campaign of arrests and repression of activists, independent journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens.
Grass roots activists and detainees’ relatives have highlighted the situation to mark the World Human Rights Day which is celebrated today, to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948 by the UN General Assembly of the United Nations.
According to Amnesty International, there were 118 prisoners of conscience as of May 2019. A figure that grew in 2020, as confirmed by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report which speaks of "at least 150 people convicted of exercising the right to freedom of expression or association, and who are currently in prison". Another 15 are held in pre-trial detention awaiting trial.
Phil Robertson, HRW's vie-director for Asia, points out to Radio Free Asia (RFA) that " “Vietnam has one of the worst human rights records in Southeast Asia. It has some of the largest number of political prisoners and is sentencing people to extremely long prison terms.” “We're seeing people sent to prison for 12 years or 14 years for basically exercising their civil and political rights or the right to freedom of expression the right to peaceful public assembly, and the right to associate without government permission,” he added.
In recent days, on the eve of World Day, many relatives of detainees and political prisoners have denounced the poor prison conditions and abuses committed by the authorities, including assaults, denied visits and repeated surveillance. “When my husband was first detained, from May to September 2019, the police were often watching me, even posting guards at the stairway in front of my house,” Pham Thi Lan, wife of political prisoner Nguyen Tuong Thuy said.
Her husband, vice-president of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (Ijavn), was arrested for criticizing the government. The authorities imprisoned him along with two other members of the association on 10 November, for telling stories and releasing information and material contrary to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, on the basis of the infamous art. 117 of the National Criminal Code. Nguyen Tuong Thuy, Pham Chi Dung and Le Huu Minh Tuan face sentences of between 10 and 20 years in prison if convicted.
In another high-profile incident, in September a court in Hanoi sentenced 29 defendants for their involvement in a violent clash over land, which resulted in the deaths of three police officers and a protest leader in the Dong Tam municipality, on the outskirts of the capital. Of these, two received death sentences, while others had between 10 and 16 years in prison.
For many elderly parents, long-term prison sentences mean they can never see their relatives again. According to a report prepared by the South African experts of Civicus, an NGO that fights for human rights, Vietnam is one of the four Asian nations classified as "closed" in terms of freedom and civil rights along with China, Laos and Korea. North.