As the third week of February comes to a close, the international community condemns the appeal trial verdict in the case of blogger and lawyer Le Quoc Quan. His sentence was upheld on February 18th. His trial drew crowds of protestors and has human rights organizations around the world calling again for critical reform in Vietnam. Le Quoc Quan was arrested in 2012 and is serving two and a half years on superficial charges of tax evasion. We will continue to fight for his unconditional release.
Additional abuses have plagued the activist community in Vietnam so far this month. Writer Pham Chi Dung was denied leave of Vietnam to attend a conference in Geneva during the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Vietnam’s human rights record. He addressed the conference via the Internet instead. The UPR concluded that Vietnam is still far short of fulfilling its promises made to improve its human rights situation.
“But I am not alone. In Vietnam today, hundreds of dissidents and human rights defenders are subjected to the torture of house arrest without any due process of law.”
–Thich Quang Do, Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, speaking in Geneva
Just ahead of the review, a Vietnamese ex-diplomat applied for Swiss asylum, citing faults of the one-party state. He urges Vietnam to stop covering up its abuses. Vietnam’s abuses, however, continue to be uncovered. The country was recently named to Press Freedom’s Risk List.
Despite these troubling developments, activists continue to stand strong with their messages of democracy and freedom of expression. On February 8th, Le Quoc Quan began a hunger strike. Three days later, Nguyen Bac Truyen spoke out about his harrowing 24-hour ordeal with the police. He was taken from his home in an elaborate police raid but was released the next day. Blogger Dinh Dang Dinh, who was arrested under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, remains in detention in a hospital, but campaigns for his release are not losing steam. Dinh, who is serving a six-year sentence, is suffering from advanced stages of stomach cancer.
Even though injustice still prevails in Vietnam, the international community is not backing down. Coalitions of nonprofits are partnering to take action, representatives from many nations are incorporating human rights discourse into their meetings, and individuals like you and me do not forget. We will not forget. With a reported 227 recommendations made at the UPR by the UN Human Rights Council, it is our duty not to forget about the state of rights in Vietnam or anywhere else.
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