October 4, 2013
Geneva — The UN’s human rights body on Friday protested the jailing of one of Vietnam’s best known dissidents in a tax evasion case denounced by international rights campaigners as politically motivated.
“We are seriously concerned by the conviction and sentencing of Mr. Le Quoc Quan, a prominent human rights lawyer,” Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights, told reporters.
Le Quoc Quan was sentenced Wednesday to two and half years in prison, and Coville said that his conviction for tax evasion echoed the one in 2008 of Nguyen Van Hai, a prominent blogger and media freedom campaigner best known by his penname Dieu Cay.
“This raises concerns that such charges may be used to silence human rights activists and those who are critical of the government’s policies and practices,” said Colville.
He said the UN was alarmed by the fact that Le Quoc Quan was convicted after just a day in court, and that access to the trial was restricted for his family and supporters.
“This casts doubts whether his right to fair trial and due process were fully respected,” he said.
“We urge the government of Vietnam to review such convictions and trial proceedings which continue to seriously threaten and curb the right to freedom of expression, opinion and association in the country,” he added.
Rights groups estimate hundreds of activists are locked up in Vietnam for speaking out against the authoritarian government, including at least 46 jailed this year.
Vietnam — where the Communist Party forbids all political debate — faces regular criticism from rights groups and Western governments for its intolerance of political dissent.