Courageous Christian Advocate, Nguyen Van Dai, Persecuted

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By: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal
Nguyen Van Dai is one of Vietnam's few practising human rights lawyers and a
founder of the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam. As noted by Human
Rights Watch (HRW) the persecution of Nguyen Van Dai commenced in August
2006 as he and other dissidents were planning to launch an independent
bulletin. (Link 1)

An August 2006 bulletin from the Law Office of Nguyen Van Dai entitled
"Vietnam Steps up Repression of Religious Freedom" can be viewed at Link 2.

HRW reports that Dai was detained and interrogated by police from 9 to 14
November 2006 and kept under house arrest from 15 to 22 November while the
APEC meetings were in progress.

As reported in a recent WEA RLC News & Analysis posting, the persecution
against Dai intensified in early February 2007 after he hosted Vietnam's
first ever discussion on human rights law. (Link 3)

Nguyen Van Dai is being persecuted because, as a lawyer who is representing
the persecuted Church and advocating for religious liberty, he has
considerable evidence that Vietnam is not living up to its international
agreements to improve religious liberty in the country. If Vietnam is to
retain its privileges while continuing its persecution, then Nguyen Van Dai
must be silenced.


According to a press release from The People's Democratic Party (PDP: link
4) "Vietnamese human rights lawyer Nguyen van Dai, a founder of the
Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam, one of eight Vietnamese to be awarded
the Hellman/Hammett grant [from Human Rights Watch], was arrested in Ha Noi
on 6 March 2007."

According to the PDP, lawyer Le Thi Cong Nhan, spokesperson of Thang Tien
Party (The Progression Party) was arrested from her home at 10 am on the
same day. She had been detained and interrogated with Dai in early February.

The government mouthpiece, the Viet Nam News Agency, reported (7 March):
"The Ha Noi Investigation and Security Police yesterday arrested Nguyen Van
Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, attorneys of the Thien An Law Office at 10 Doan
Tran Nghiep Street in Hanoi, on charges of propagandising against the State
of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

"Nguyen Van Dai, 38, head of the Thien An Law Office, and Le Thi Cong Nhan,
28, an attorney registered to work at the office, were arrested under
Vietnam's Penal Code, Term 88, Article 1, points a and c."

According to Viet Nam News Agency, documents seized in a search of Dia's law
office "contained distorted information on the country's situation,
inflammatory statements against the Government, information related to the
establishment and announcement of reactionary organisations opposing the
State of Vietnam.

"The investigators also found many documents that proved that Dai and Nhan
received instructions and financial support from overseas to open courses on
human rights and democracy and to sponsor people who signed their petitions
so as to lure forces against the State of Vietnam, as well as to collect
Vietnam's socio-political and religious information for parties abroad.

"The initial results of the investigation showed that since 2004, Dai took
advantage of the State's permission to establish the law office to
propagandise, gather forces and conspire with political opportunists and
hostile forces at home and abroad to oppose the State. Nhan has actively
helped Dai, according to the initial results of the investigation.

"These alleged acts run counter to the interests of the nation and people,
seriously violating Vietnam's laws." (Link 5)

Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan have both been charged with violating
article 88 of Viet Nam's Criminal Law which deals with "conducting
propaganda activities to harm the security of state". The PDP reports that
the arrest order provides for Dai and Nhan to be temporarily incarcerated
for four months pending further investigation.

Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan have both been charged with violating
article 88 of Viet Nam's Criminal Law which deals with "conducting
propaganda activities to harm the security of state". The PDP reports that
the arrest order provides for Dai and Nhan to be temporarily incarcerated
for four months pending further investigation. They have been incarcerated
in Prison 1 (new Hoa Lo prison), Cau Dien village, Tu Liem district in Ha
Noi. Dai's wife, Mrs. Vu Minh Khai is under intense surveillance. Sources
have reported to PDP that Dai and Nhan have commenced a hunger strike.

The "Vietnam Committee" news release on the website of "Que Me: Action for
Democracy in Vietnam" adds that while the arrest warrant condemns the
lawyers to four months detention, "In fact, they risk a much longer
detention. Under Vietnam's Criminal Procedures Code, this 4-month period may
be extended four times for national security offenders (i.e. a total of 20
months), after which the People's Procurator is entitled to apply 'other
deterrent measures' (Article 120)." (Link 6)

Que Me comments: "Article 88 is one of the vaguely-defined, catch-all
'national security' offences in Vietnam's Criminal Code which have incurred
widespread international criticism. In July 2002, the United Nations Human
Rights Committee denounced these provisions as 'incompatible' with
international human rights law and demanded their immediate repeal."


Que Me quotes Mr Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on Human
Rights as saying, "We anticipated this crack-down on dissent after the APEC
Summit, once Vietnam had obtained all it wanted from the international
community, such as WTO membership and removal from the US State department's
blacklist of Countries of Particular Concern for religious freedom
violations [see link 7]. We did not have to wait long. Today, Vietnam has
resorted to its old repressive habits, crushing all peaceful voices of
dissent. The arrest of Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan and other
pro-democracy activists, as well as intensified repression against leaders
of 20 Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam all over Vietnam, reveal the
hypocrisy and double language of the Vietnamese regime".

The PDP news release also reports that police have been harassing and
intimidating several members of the Mennonite Church in Central Region of
Vietnam. "Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang has asked for urgent help due to
constantly harassment from the police on Mennonite followers in remote area
as Plei Ku city, Gia Ray province".

Other victims of religious persecution include Father Nguyen Van Ly who has
also been accused of violating Article 88. Father Ly has been forcibly
removed from his parish and placed under house-arrest in a remote location.
(Link 8)

Elizabeth Kendal
[email protected]


1) Vietnam: Dissidents Struggle to Exercise Free Speech
Eight Writers Win Prestigious Hellman/Hammett Prize
HRW, 6 February 2007

2) To understand why the Vietnamese government is persecuting Nguyen van
Dai, see:
"Vietnam Steps up Repression of Religious Freedom".
>From the Law Office of Nguyen Van Dai. 21 August 2006

3) Vietnam Persecuting Honoured Christian Advocate
WEA RLC News & Analysis, 19 Feb 2007

4) The People's Democratic Party
http://www.freewebs.com/dangdanchunhandan/ [email protected]

5) Two lawyers arrested for anti-Government activities. 7 March 2007

6) Vietnam crackdown on pro-democracy activists: Lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and
Le Thi Cong Nhan arrested in Hanoi
PARIS, 6th March 2007 (Vietnam Committee)

7) United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
USCIRF Disappointed About Removal of Vietnam from U.S. Government's List of
Religious Freedom Violators; Welcomes Re-Designation of Saudi Arabia and
Addition of Uzbekistan. 13 November 2006

8) Fr Nguyen Van Ly arrested in Hue. 21 Feb 2007

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