ILLINOIS, U.S., June 22, 2020 – In the 2019 Report on Political Prisoners and Activists at Risk in Vietnam, we highlight Vietnam’s troublesome human rights record over the past year. We document arrests, trials, harassment, and abuse of political prisoners and activists at risk. The 65-page report also includes evaluation of Vietnam’s failure to comply with its 2019 Universal Periodic Review commitment and our recommendations for international stakeholders.
Regardless of background, location, or type of activism, Vietnamese people from different communities were subjected to both physical and psychological harassment, arrests, and prosecution in 2019 for their peaceful dissent. This included:
- 41 individuals arrested for peaceful activism
- 61 individuals tried for “national security” crimes
- 84 activists at risk who faced harassment in 96 incidents
- 16 documented cases of torture of political prisoners
The crackdown worsened during the year in several notable areas, including the ramped up arrests and prosecution of ordinary citizens who expressed their opinions on online platforms. Forty-percent of those arrested in 2019 were online commentators with no extensive history of activism and almost half of those arrested in 2019 were charged with “conducting propaganda against the state,” an increase from previous years. Seventeen people were sentenced to between 5-9 years in prison, and ten were sentenced to 10 years or more.
Activists were most commonly targeted with detentions, physical assaults in public spaces, and property confiscations. The government particularly targeted anti-corruption, freedom of publication, democracy, and environment activists.
Trials continued to be riddled with legal irregularities, as courts handed down severe sentences for mere peaceful political expression, and several activists were denied legal representation.
All these developments came as Vietnam has taken on increased international responsibility and recognition as the current chair of ASEAN and signatory to a free trade agreement with the European Union. We call on foreign governments and international human rights organizations to hold Vietnam accountable for the human rights commitments that it accepted in the recommendations from its 2019 UPR and to press Vietnam for change in 2020.