June 30, 2017
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has published an Opinion in June 2017 calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the prominent Vietnamese human rights lawyer and blogger Nguyen Van Dai. The UN Working Group Opinion is the result of a petition that was filed by the Media Legal Defence Initiative together with Lawyers for Lawyers, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, PEN International and Viet Tan in November 2016.
Nguyen Van Dai is a leading human rights lawyer and prominent advocate for democracy and human rights in Viet Nam. Nguyen Van Dai was arrested in December 2015 on trumped up charges of ‘conducting propaganda’ against the state and has been detained incommunicado since then without any charges being brought against him. His arrest in December 2015 took place while he was on his way to a meeting with delegates from the European Union as part of the annual EU-Viet Nam Dialogue on Human Rights. Prior to his arrest and detention he had been subjected to consistent and systematic harassment and abuse by the government for his outspoken advocacy. He had already been convicted for “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam”, an overbroad provision that has been used consistently to suppress critical reporting in the country. Following that conviction he served an eight-year sentence, in prison and under house arrest, before being released in March 2015.
Nguyen Van Dai has been subjected to a range of violations of his human rights. He has been held in incommunicado detention since December 2015. He has been denied access to a lawyer since his arrest and his family have been unable to visit him. Despite being in poor health the Vietnamese authorities refuse to provide appropriate medical treatment.
The Working Group found that Nguyen Van Dai’s arrest and detention were arbitrary and designed to prevent him from exercising his right to freely express his views on the political and human rights situation in Viet Nam. According to the Working Group “the repetitive and systematic harassment, assault and detention of Mr. Dai by the Vietnamese authorities for more than 10 years, which was alleged by the source and not contested by the Government, indicate that Mr. Dai’s present detention is part of a pattern of persecution for his activities as a human rights defender.” Notably the Working Group also recognised that the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of persons in Viet Nam is a systemic problem and cautioned that “widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.”
MLDI’s Legal Director Padraig Hughes said: “This is another in a long line of cases challenging Viet Nam’s use of vague, overbroad laws to silence journalists and human rights defenders through deprivation of liberty. The UN Working Group’s message is clear; widespread use of such laws may amount to crimes against humanity. Nguyen Van Dai’s detention is unlawful and in violation of his human rights, and Viet Nam must now release him.”
You can read the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s Opinion on Nguyen Van Dai case here.