Nguyen Viet Dung
Current Status: Released - at risk
Other Names: Nguyễn Viết Dũng, Dũng Phi Hổ
Date of Birth: June 19, 1986
Last Known Prison: Nam Ha prison, Ha Nam province
Areas of Activism:
Highlighted Human Rights Concerns:
- Solitary Confinement
- Former Political Prisoner
- Denial of Legal Representation
- Denial of Adequate Medical Treatment or Supplies
- Harsh Physical and Administrative Conditions
- Denial of Family Visit/Punitive Prison Transfer
- Infliction of Physical and Psychological Pain
Democracy activist Nguyen Viet Dung completed his six-year sentence for disseminating “anti-state propaganda” and was released from Nam Ha Prison on Sept. 27. This was Dung’s second incarceration. In 2015, he was sentenced to one year in prison for “disturbing public order,” ostensibly for displaying and wearing the flag of the former South Vietnam.
Below, Dung spoke to Project 88 about the hardships he endured during his detention and subsequent imprisonment.
PART I – Abduction, Detention
I was kidnapped around noon on Sept. 27, 2017. I had just left the Song Ngoc Parish Church and was having lunch with four of my students at an eatery about 50 meters from the church.
The men who abducted me were not in uniforms even though they announced, “We’re public security investigators from Nghe An, and you’re a wanted suspect.” The truth is, I was not a wanted suspect.
They started punching me and then threw me into a car. As soon as I was inside they handcuffed me, shackled my legs then hit me some more. Once we got to the station, and while I was still in handcuffs, a uniformed police officer came and slapped me in the face. (This was so long ago I really can’t recall this man’s name.)
They started “working” me, but I remained steadfastly silent. After a while, they produced a police report and ordered me to sign it. Before signing, however, I wrote in the report that I wished to meet some representatives from NGOs and/or foreign embassies to report that I was physically assaulted by non-uniform individuals.
Afterwards, I was moved to Nghe An Jail (also called Nghi Kim Jail because it’s in Nghi Kim District of Vinh.) Instead of putting me in room P9/A1A, which has security cameras and is used for people being temporarily detained (the order to arrest me stated that this was only a temporary detention), they took me directly to room P1/A1A which has no cameras but had a group of policemen already there, waiting to beat me up and break my spirit. As soon the door opened, these men immediately jumped me and began their assault. I’m the kind of guy who always fights back, but since I had already been severely beaten earlier, I had no resistance left when two of them held me up while a third man kicked me in the chest.
The next morning, I reported to the supervising officer of row A1A, a man named Nguyen Sy Hung, that I had been assaulted. He took out a large wooden stick and began hitting me while saying, “If I don’t beat you up, who the hell will?”
These brutal beatings left me in pain for almost a year. Even when I coughed, however lightly, I still would feel some internal pain. During my whole time in this place I was constantly intimidated and harassed by my jailers as well as by other inmates.
Once I got my strength back and began doing physical exercise in the tiny space in front of my cell, Nguyen Sy Hung would yell at me and tell the other guys in my cell: “Do you know who this bastard is? Don’t let him exercise. If he gets stronger he’ll beat you up!”
(to be continued).
For part 2, visit this link.
And for part 3, visit here.
Details - Background, History of Activism.
Nguyen Viet Dung is an engineer from Nghe An province.
Nguyen Viet Dung is the founder of the unsanctioned Republican Party in Vietnam and the Loyalist Association of the ARVN and has been active in environmental and political protests.
The Case of Nguyen Viet Dung (Vietnam), Global Freedom of Expression, Columbia University
Vietnam Arrests Activist Nguyen Viet Dung For "Anti-State Propaganda,' Radio Free Asia, September 28, 2017
Viet Nam: Immediately and Unconditionally Release Democracy Activist Nguyen Viet Dung, Amnesty International, December 16, 2015 (PDF)
Vietnam: Drop Charges Against Rights Activist, Human Rights Watch, March 26, 2018
Vietnam Jails 3 More Democracy Activists, Drawing Condemnation from Rights Defenders, Radio Free Asia, April 12, 2018
Two more activists jailed in Vietnam amid widening dissent crackdown, Reuters, April 12, 2018
Prison Sentence of President of Vietnam Republican Party Nguyen Viet Dung Reduced in Short Appeal Hearing, Defend the Defenders, August 15, 2018
Jailed Activists Nguyen Van Hoa, Nguyen Viet Dung Say They Are Tortured for Coerced Confession, Defend the Defenders, August 21, 2018
Arrested April, 2015. Sentenced to 1 year in prison under Art. 245 (1999 Code). Released April, 2016.
- Art. 245 (1999 Code)
Nguyen Viet Dung was arrested in April 2015 after taking part in an environmental protest against cutting down trees in Hanoi. He was originally detained along with four others belonging to the Republic Party in Vietnam. He was wearing the uniform of the former South Vietnam army at the protest. He was tried in December 2015 under Article 245 and sentenced to 15 months in prison, reduced to 12 on appeal.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention deemed his 2015 detention as arbitrary.
Arrested September 27, 2017. Sentenced to 6 years in prison under Art. 88 (1999 Code). Released September 27, 2023.
- Art. 88 (1999 Code)
Nguyen Viet Dung, 31, was re-arrested in Nghe An province, during a lunch meeting, on September 27, 2017. He was kidnapped and later charged by authorities under Article 88 of the 1999 Criminal Code.
Nguyen Viet Dung was originally to be tried on March 28, 2018, in Nghe An province. He met with his lawyers ahead of the trial; they asked to postpone the trial due to a personal scheduling conflict. The request was originally denied. However, later his trial was postponed until April 12.
On April 12, 2018, Nguyen Viet Dung was sentenced to seven years in prison and five years of house arrest by a court in Nghe An province.
Nguyen Viet Dung will still have to serve six years in prison, as authorities only reduced his sentence by one-year during his appeal trial on August 15 in Nghe An. There was no lawyer present to defend him; the public and defense were given very little advanced notice of the trial date.
Imprisoned journalist Nguyen Van Hoa was beaten and forced into giving testimony used against environmental activist Le Dinh Luong in court, The Committee to Protect Journalists reported. Hoa later recanted on the witness stand, saying the statements were made under duress of the assault. Luong, however, was still sentenced to 20 years in prison. Both activists had been involved with activism after the Formosa environmental disaster. There is also a report that Nguyen Viet Dung was coerced into giving false testimony as well, which he also later recanted, separately from Hoa. Luong's lawyers were not allowed to meet with either witness. After Dung recanted, his family was denied a visit with him in prison.
On the morning of November 19, Nguyen Viet Dung’s father went to Nghi Kim detention center, Nghe An province, to meet with Dung. However, when he arrived, detention officials announced verbally that Dung had been transferred to Nam Ha Detention Center, Ha Nam Province, without any formal announcement sent to his family. The new facility is even farther from the family's residence. Prison transfers are a common tactic used by the authorities to distance political prisoners from their support systems.
During the latest visit on March 22, 2019, two lawyers, Nguyen Kha Thanh and Ngo Anh Tuan, went to Detention Center of Nghe An Public Security to meet Dung. He was said to be in good health and spirits and worried about his family.
Nguyen Viet Dung's family was not allowed to see him when they went to visit him in Nam Ha prison on May 28. Prison guards said he was being disciplined and transferred to another section of the prison (from section 1 to section 2) and was not allowed to receive visitors. It was unclear why he was being disciplined.
On June 28, 2019, Nguyen Viet Dung's family went to visit him at prison camp Nam Ha, Ha Nam province, but they were not supposed to see Dung because Dung was still being disciplined. However, due to the fact that the family had traveled far in hot temperatures, Dung’s father was allowed to see him. Last month, Nguyen’s family was not allowed to see him when they went to visit him in prison on May 28. Prison guards said he was being disciplined and transferred to another section of the prison (from section 1 to section 2) and was not allowed to receive visitors. It is unclear why he was being disciplined. During the last phone call before Dung was put to solitary confinement, Dung told his father that he was sending a petition to the Vietnamese parliament to plea for his release because he is innocent.
On January 7, 2020, Nguyen Viet Dung‘s family went to visit him at prison camp Nam Ha in Ha Nam province. Compared to the previous visit in June, he seemed to be in better spirits, yet there are still concerns about his health. According to the family, he has been barred from buying food at the prison canteen and is only allowed to access the meals provided by the prison. His diet variety has also been poor, as he is only able to consume vegetables on the weekends and a limited amount of meat on weekdays. Fortunately, in this visit, the prison management allowed the family to give him some other food prepared at home. Dung also asked about the cassation (a type of higher appellate) procedure for his case, since he submitted the request a long time ago.
Phan Kim Khanh was in solitary confinement for allegedly "rebelling" against the prison administration. There was a noticeable deterioration in his health, possibly due to malnutrition. The family has called for the help of civil society organizations. It was also reported that Nguyen Viet Dung is also in solitary confinement for the same reason, as well as for "refusing to work." On January 7, 2020, Dung‘s family went to visit him, and compared to the previous visit in June, he seemed to be in better spirits, yet there were still concerns about his health. According to the family, at that time, he had been barred from buying food at the prison canteen and was only allowed to access the meals provided by the prison, resulting in a lack of nutritional variety. Dung and Khanh were both currently in solitary confinement at Ba Sao prison camp in Ha Nam prison and both are in the process of trying to appeal their sentences, but at different levels of the appellate process.
Nguyen Viet Dung was reported by his sister, Nguyen Anh, to be in poor health. She visited him at Nam Ha Prison on April 22. Unlike the last visit three months ago when he appeared healthy, Dung was having problems eating and sleeping, had a fever, and had skin rashes on his neck and face. He was also being isolated from other prisoners. Dung had asked to see a doctor and that he be allowed to be with others.
Human Rights Watch called for his release ahead of the scheduled March 28, 2018 trial. Asia Director, Brad Adams challenged the government's manner of handling dissenting viewpoints, stating: “Neither Nguyen Viet Dung nor others calling for reform have shown any intention of giving in to this kind of heavy-handed pressure. All Vietnam is doing is calling attention to its ridiculous intolerance of dissent.”
Amnesty International's Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, James Gomez, commented on Nguyen Viet Dung and Vu Van Hung's April 12 trials: “After throwing a record number of human rights defenders in jail last year, the Vietnamese authorities have made another deeply troubling statement of intent by bringing these two activists before the courts. It sends a clear signal that there is to be no let-up.”
Two Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience Given Solitary Confinement, Radio Free Asia, January 27, 2020
Facebook post about Dung, April 2021
Profile last updated: 2023-10-25 16:51:56