Vietnamese and International Civil Society Call for an Investigation into Dong Tam Incident

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February 25, 2020

Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger

President 

Human Rights Council

United Nations 

Geneva, Switzerland 

 

Re: Request to investigate the gross human rights violations in Dong Tam, Vietnam 

 

Dear Ambassador,

We, the undersigned human rights organizations, write to draw your attention to the recent crackdown in Dong Tam near Hanoi.

On January 9, Vietnamese authorities reportedly mobilised 3,000 riot police to raid Hoanh Hamlet, Dong Tam Commune, killing 84-year-old community leader Le Dinh Kinh and arresting at least 27 residents (names included below). This occurred in the context of a prolonged land dispute in which the Hanoi municipal authorities tried to seize valuable land for redevelopment—threatening the livelihood and displacement of nearly 10,000 long-time residents. 

Prior to the attack, police locked down the whole area and suspended phone and internet service. Independent journalists and international media outlets were banned from travelling to Dong Tam to report on the attack. Trinh Ba Phuong, a citizen journalist, based 25 miles away in Hanoi, was detained and put under house arrest for broadcasting a livestream on Facebook, reporting on the events as riot police stormed Dong Tam. 

Since then, both Trinh Ba Phuong and his brother Trinh Ba Tu, as well as a number of other activists, continue to be harassed and threatened with arrest for trying to shed further light onto the police action. Vietnamese authorities pressured Facebook to remove content about Dong Tam and government trolls have targeted the accounts of human rights activists.

A month after the attack, at least 27 residents are still being held incommunicado and their well-being is unknown. They are all barred from legal access. Under the pretext of blocking “terrorist financing”, the Ministry of Public Security ordered Vietcombank to freeze the bank account to which hundreds of individuals donated money to support Le Dinh Kinh’s family with funeral expenses. The holder of the account, social activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh, has not been able to withdraw 528 million Vietnamese dong ($23,000 USD).

This appalling police brutality in Dong Tam and the repression following reveals the escalation of human rights abuse in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government continues to show complete disregard for international conventions including the UN Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Therefore, we urgently call on you and the UN Human Rights Council to:

  • Arrange for a Special Rapporteur to investigate the Dong Tam incident and provide recommendations on holding any officials responsible for gross human rights abuses accountable. 
  • Urge the Vietnamese government to release all individuals arbitrarily detained during the police raid on Dong Tam on January 9th and to cease all forms of retaliation against the residents of Dong Tam and their supporters
  • Insist that the Vietnamese government allow independent media organisations and civil society to freely travel to Dong Tam and speak with local residents without fear of retribution

Signed,

 

Nathalie Seff

Executive Director

Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) France

 

Nguyen Le Hung

Bau Bi Tuong Than Association

 

Nguyen Van Dai

Brotherhood For Democracy

 

Vu Manh Hung

Chu Van An Educational Profession Association 

 

Rodolphe Prom

Destination Justice

 

Nguyen Tuong Thuy

Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam

 

Liberal Publishing House

 

Reverend Anthony Dang Huu Nam

My Khanh Parish, Vinh Diocese 

 

Christophe Deloire

General Secretary

Reporters Without Borders 

 

Safeguard Defenders

 

Reverend JB Nguyen Dinh Thuc

Song Ngoc Parish, Vinh Diocese

 

Rolin Wavre

Swiss-Vietnam Committee (COSUNAM)

 

Do Hoang Diem

Viet Tan

 

Duong Thi Phuong Hang

Vietnamese Journalists Union

 

Trinh Thi Ngoc Kim

Vietnamese Students Union

 

Watchdogs Unleashed

 

List of those who were arrested during the Dong Tam incident:

Name Age Notes
Lê Đình Công 55 Son of Lê Đình Kình
Lê Đình Chức 40 Son of Lê Đình Kình, has 3 young children, including a 10 days old baby
Lê Đình Doanh 34 Grandson of Lê Đình Kình
Lê Đình Uy 31 Grandson of Lê Đình Kình
Lê Đình Quang 37 Nephew of Lê Đình Kình
Trần Thị Phương 40 Has three children with Bùi Văn Tiến, born 2007, 2013, and a baby 18 months old.
Trần Thị La 42 Single mother
Mai Thị Phần 55
Nguyễn Thị Dung  57
Nguyễn Văn Điều 64
Bùi Viết Tiến 17
Bùi Văn Tuấn 40
Bùi Viết Hiểu 74
Nguyễn Quốc Tiến 40 Has 3 children with Đào Thị Kim, born in 2004, 2007, and 2013
Đào Thị Kim 38
Nguyễn Văn Quân 40 Single father with 3 young children
Nguyễn Thị Bét 58
Nguyễn Thị Đục 55
Nguyễn Văn Tuyển 48
Nguyễn Văn Niên 40
Nguyễn Thị Lụa 53
Lê Đình Quân 44
Trịnh Văn Hải 40
Bùi Thị Nối 56
Bùi Văn Tiến 41
Nguyễn Văn Duệ 52
Lê Đình Hiển 32 Has two young children, is about to give birth to a third child

A PDF of the letter can be downloaded here.

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