Hanoi government to criminalize democracy promotion in trial of prominent activists

March 29, 2018

Viet Tan strongly condemns the arbitrary charges by the Vietnamese authorities against leaders of the Brotherhood of Democracy (BFD), a pillar of the Vietnamese democracy movement.

After over two years of arbitrary detention, human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai will be brought to trial on April 5 in Hanoi. Charged with “attempting to overthrow the people’s administration” (Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code), Nguyen Van Dai will be tried along with five other members of the BFD.

Founded in 2013, the BFD has members across the country. It has partnered with international NGOs and Vietnamese civil society groups to train and educate people about their fundamental rights. In recent years, the BFD has launched campaigns to support victims of land grabs and fishermen affected by the Formosa environmental crisis. BFD members utilized social media and gave interviews to discuss the need for multi-party democracy.

A co-founder of the BFD, Nguyen Van Dai personally led many of the seminars on civil rights. He was arrested on December 16, 2015 as he was about to give a talk on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He was arrested at the same time as Le Thu Ha and the two were initially charged with “anti-state propaganda” (Article 88).

In July 2017, authorities arrested Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Trung Ton, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Truong Minh Duc and charged them with violating Article 79. All four are prominent human rights defenders and citizen journalists. Each have been beaten by police-hired thugs as retribution for their peaceful advocacy. In February 2017, Nguyen Trung Ton (a Lutheran pastor) was stripped, severely beaten, and thrown into the jungle. He was saved by local residents and was still recovering from his wounds when he was detained last summer.

This latest effort by Hanoi to crack down on human rights and the democracy movement is a blatant violation of international law. In solidarity with the Brotherhood for Democracy, Viet Tan will continue to advocate for the release of Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thu Ha, Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Trung Ton, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Truong Minh Duc — and all other political prisoners in Vietnam.

Viet Tan urges:

1/ The European Union to attach concrete human rights conditions before proceeding with a Free Trade Agreement with Vietnam.

2/ The United States Department of State to take action against Vietnamese officials who are known human rights abusers, as provided by the Global Magnitsky Act.

3/ International human rights groups and UN member states to scrutinize the human rights record of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam through the upcoming Universal Periodic Review process.

Democracy is not a crime. We stand with the Brotherhood for Democracy.

Contact: Duy Hoang +1.202.596.7951