Vietnam: Vietnam Persecuting Honoured Christian Advocate

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On Tuesday 6 February 2007, Human Rights Watch announced that Vietnamese
human rights attorney Nguyen van Dai was one of eight Vietnamese among the
45 writers from 22 countries to be awarded a Hellman/Hammett grant this
year. The Hellman/Hammett grants, administered by Human Rights Watch, are
given annually to writers around the world who have been targets of
political persecution. Marcia Allina, who coordinates the Hellman/Hammett
grant program says, "The Hellman/Hammett grants aim to help writers confront
and survive persecution." (Link 1; includes full list of recipients.)

This is how Human Rights Watch describes Nguyen van Dai: "Nguyen Van Dai is
one of Vietnam's only practicing human rights lawyers, and a founder of the
Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam, which was launched in 2006. He has
taken on most of the legal defence for embattled Protestant churches,
including the case of Mennonite pastor and former political prisoner Nguyen
Hong Quang. He has written articles about democracy and press freedom, and
was detained in August 2006, as he and other dissidents were planning to
launch an independent bulletin. He was interrogated by police from November
9 to 14. Police were stationed in front of his home from November 15-22,
during the APEC meetings. He was prohibited from leaving his home, and his
cell phone and internet access were disconnected. In February 2007, security
agents reportedly ransacked his house." (Link 2)

In a 6 February press release, Sophie Richardson, the deputy director of the
Asia division at Human Rights Watch commented: "'This is an especially
important year to recognize dissident writers in Vietnam. Vietnam's emerging
democracy movement has become bolder, more outspoken and public, making
activists more vulnerable to government reprisals. The Hellman/Hammett
awards give these writers international attention and some protection.'"
(Link 2)

Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) immediately condemned Human
Rights Watch for granting the Hellman/Hammett Award to some Vietnamese,
calling it "an absolutely wrongful act".

MoFA's spokesman, Le Dung, said: "The granting of the Hellman/Hammet Award
to some Vietnamese by the Human Rights Watch is completely wrong. This
organisation usually issues distorted information about the situation in

Le Dung also claimed that in Vietnam, nobody has been detained because of
his/her political opinions and there has been no political repression,
adding that only those who break laws are punished in accordance with
regulations of the State. (Link 3)


On Saturday 3 February 2007, attorneys Nguyen Van Dai (38) and Le thi Cong
Nhan (27) were arrested at Dai's office for hosting a discussion on human
rights law. Four others present were also arrested.

According to JURIST < http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/ > Dai and Nhan were
detained over the weekend while police searched their homes and offices,
before being released on Sunday 4 February. JURIST reports: "The two held a
similar training session for university students last month, which was the
first known public human rights training in the communist country." JURIST
also reports that on Monday 5 February, Dai was order to return to the
police station for further questioning. (Link 3)

European on-line magazine Jurnalo spoke with Le thi Cong Nhan on 5 February.
"The police accused us of violating Article 88 of the criminal code, which
is organizing to overthrow the government," she said. "But no, we were not.
We were only talking about human rights and democracy."

Nhan also told Jurnalo that another dissident, Bach Ngoc Duong (33), was
punched in the face by police and his glasses were broken. "When the police
came in, they said 'Vietnam has its own human rights regulated by the party
and the government so there is no need for British or American style human
rights here'," Nhan said. "They said, 'If you want international-style human
rights, you should go live in those countries.'" (Link 4)

Press release from the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam:

P.O. Box 648 Buu Dien Bo Ho, Hanoi, Viet Nam
Email:[email protected]

Hanoi, 9 February 2007

Between 3-8 February 2007 the Communist government of Vietnam conducted an
organised campaign of repression against well-known activists including
attorney Nguyen van Dai who has just received the coveted Hellman/Hammett
prize from the Human Rights Watch, attorney Le thi Cong Nhan, Mr. Pham van
Troi and the three staff members from the Thien An Law Office.

Security agents searched the Thien An Law Office and confiscated two hard
disks and a box of documents. While searching the residence of attorney
Nguyen van Dai, they seized a laptop, a scanner, a telephone, and one box of
documents. At the home of attorney Le thi Cong Nhan, they confiscated a
desktop computer and one box of documents.

Security agents then interrogated attorneys Nguyen van Dai and Le thi Cong
Nhan during the week of 3-8 February 2007.

More seriously, the communist government of Vietnam is now resorting to
mental terrorism, using the same tactics it employed during the 1950's. That
is, they are applying the People's Court techniques of denouncing and
accusing - techniques made notorious by the Land Reform campaign of 1953-56
in North Vietnam. On 5 February 2007 the authorities conducted a "kangaroo
court" at the neighborhood of engineer Bach Ngoc Duong.

On the evening of 8 February 2007, the communist government mobilised about
200 people between the ages of 60 to 80 at the People Committee of Ward Bach
Khoa to conduct a People's Court. They called the process "The Conference of
the People" and commenced by reading aloud Mr. Dai's biography, after-which
they falsely accused attorney Dai of being a member of The XXI Democracy
Party, and calumniated him as a traitor who has betrayed his country. During
the whole two and a half hour denouncing and accusing ordeal, they did not
allow attorney Dai to utter a single word in his defense. Finally they
concluded that attorney Nguyen van Dai is guilty on two counts: violating
Article 88 and 258 of the Criminal Code. They demanded that attorney Dai be
disbarred, his law license revoked, and the Thien-An Law Office closed. They
agreed to pursue criminal actions against attorney Nguyen van Dai. The
security forces attempted, by means of force and threats, to pressure Dai
into signing an affidavit; but lawyer Nguyen van Dai declared: "You all can
kill me, but I will never sign it." In the end they conceded.

Faced with the Communist government's mounting pressure and unrelenting
repression against the advocates of democracy and human rights, the Human
Rights Committee of Vietnam called an emergency session during the night of
8 February 2007. The Human Rights Committee of Vietnam has resolved:

* to denounce the communist government of Vietnam for using vile, ignoble
and repressive tactics to browbeat and terrorise democracy activists.

* to call on all Vietnamese living and working abroad to join forces with
the general democracy movement in Vietnam and make known to the Communist
government our people's mutual desire for a rule of law based on justice and
fairness, and demand that they cease all abject and inhumane tactics at
once. We call on all citizens of the world to support this endeavor.

* to call upon the citizens of the world to unite with and support the
people of Vietnam in their struggle for democracy, freedom and human rights,
and boycott across the board all products and services that are state-owned,
e.g. Vietnam Airlines Vietnam and FP telecommunication in the year of 2007.

* to call upon all media and telecommunication agencies, broadcast and
internet, to disseminate and publicise this call.

* to call upon the governments and international human rights organisations
of the world to denounce the human rights violations committed by the Hanoi

On behalf of the Human Rights Committee of Vietnam,

Nguyen Phuong Anh,
Pham van Troi,
Bach Ngoc Duong,
Nguyen Cong Ly,
Bui Minh Thanh

Elizabeth Kendal
[email protected]


1) Banned, Censored, Harassed and Jailed
45 Writers from 22 Countries Receive Hellman/Hammett Grants
HRW. 6 February 2007

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

3) Ministry condemns act of Human Rights Watch
8 February 2007

4) Vietnam rights lawyers arrested after hosting first public training
by Holly Manges Jones. 5 Feb 2007

5) Vietnamese police arrest human-rights lawyers, beat activist
Monday 5 February 2007

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