At the end of a trial lasting from September 7 to 14, 2020 in Vietnam, some of the 29 citizens of Dong Tam received very heavy sentences: 2 death sentences, one life sentence, and long prison terms. These sentences are all the more unbearable as the trial that was held was very far from international standards in terms of respect for the rights of the defense.
In order to protest against this trial, 26 politicians, 18 international organizations, and 43 members of civil society from several countries co-signed a letter asking the Prime Minister of Vietnam to guarantee a fair appeal trial, respecting international standards such as Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam adhered to in 1982.
You can view a PDF version of the letter here.
* * * * * * * * * *
8 October 2020
Nguyen Xuan Phuc
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
16 Le Hong Phong Street
Ba Dinh District
Hà Nội, VIETNAM
Re: Dong Tam Trial
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
We are writing to express grave concerns over the trial of the citizens of Dong Tam, which was held in Vietnam from September 7 to 14, 2020.
Before the trial began on September 3, 13 defense lawyers made a written request to the judge to postpone the trial and reopen the investigation. Their seven-page letter points to unclear and conflicting elements in the investigation file.
Throughout the trial, the rights of the defense, including the rights and privileges of the defense lawyers, were not respected, as provided for in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Vietnam acceded to in 1982. Examples include the following:
- Defense lawyers had no access to their clients until indictment, and thereafter only in the presence of prison guards, violating the principle of lawyer-client confidentiality.
- The case files were not accessible to defense lawyers until a few days before the trial, and only after the Hanoi Bar Association intervened and requested such access.
- Defense lawyers were prevented from discussing with their clients during court proceedings, except during the second day of the trial.
- The families of the defendants were prevented from attending the trial.
- At the start of the trial a “documentary” film produced by the Ministry of Public Security was broadcast which suggested the guilt of the accused.
- 19 of the 29 defendants alleged that they were tortured in order to obtain forced confessions.
- The intimidation and harassment carried out by members of the Public Security against certain defense lawyers inside and outside of the Hanoi court.
- The court’s refusal to bring certain witnesses to the stand requested by the defense lawyers.
- No reconstruction of the events was made to shed light on the circumstances of the death of Mr. Le Dinh Kinh and the 3 police officers.
- Vietnam’s independent reporters and foreign journalists have been kept away from the court’s hearings, violating the fundamental principle of open debate.
The right to access to lawyers and the safeguards in criminal justice matters are also enshrined in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (Basic Principles).
The defendants with the most severe sentences (death penalty, life imprisonment, long years in prison) have decided to appeal. In view of these irregularities, we ask you to fully respect the rights of the defense before, during, and after the appeal proceedings, in full compliance with Article 14 of the Covenant and the Basic Principles.
Sentencing people to death sentences under these conditions is not acceptable, especially since the last Universal Periodic Review, many countries called on Vietnam to abolish the death penalty.
The sustainable development of a country cannot take place without independent and impartial justice.
Hon. Chris Hayes, Member of Parliament, Deputy Chair, Human Rights Subcommittee, Australia
Hon. Julian Hill, Member of Parliament, Deputy Chair of Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, Australia
Hon. Luke Donnellan, Minister for Child Protection, Minister for Ageing, Disability and Carers, Australia
Dr Tien Dung Kieu, MLC, Member of the Victorian Legislative Council, Australia
Ms Maria Arena, Member of the European Parliament, Chair of the Human Rights Subcommittee, Belgium
Ms Saskia Bricmont, Member of the European Parliament, Belgium
Ms Frédérique Ries, Member of the European Parliament, Belgium
Hon. Judy A. Sgro, Member of Parliament, Chair International Trade, Former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Canada
Ms Alviina Alametsä, Member of the European Parliament, Finland
Ms Heidi Hautala, Member of the European Parliament, Finland
Mr. Martin Patzelt, Member of Parliament, Germany
Ms Anna Cavazzini, Member of the European Parliament, Germany
Mr. Michael Gahler, Member of the European Parliament, Germany
Ms Jutta Paulus, Member of the European Parliament, Germany
Ms Christine Schneider, Member of the European Parliament, Germany
Ms Sabine Verheyen, Member of the European Parliament, Germany
Mr. Ingo Röthlingshöfer, Mayor of Neustadt, Germany
Mr. Brando Benifei, Member of the European Parliament, Italy
Mr. Ernest Urtasun, Member of the European Parliament, Spain
Mr. Jean-Luc von Arx, Geneva City Councillor, Switzerland
Ms Delphine Bachmann, Member of Geneva Parliament, Chairwoman of Christian-Democrat Party, Switzerland
Ms Patricia Bidaux-Rodriguez, Member of Geneva Parliament, Switzerland
Ms Claude Bocquet-Thonney, Member of Geneva Parliament, Switzerland
Ms Natacha Buffet-Desfayes, Member of Geneva Parliament, Switzerland
Ms Alia Chaker Mangeat, Lawyer, Geneva City Councillor, Switzerland
Mr. Sébastien Desfayes, Member of Geneva Parliament, Switzerland
Mr. Jean-Marc Guinchard, Member of Geneva Parliament, Switzerland
Mr. Alexandre Cipolla, Member of Valais Parliament, Switzerland
Mr. Vincent Maître, Lawyer, Member of Swiss Parliament, Bern Councillor, Switzerland
Ms Christina Meissner, Member of Geneva Parliament, Switzerland
Mr. Souheil Sayegh, Member of Geneva Parliament, Switzerland
Mr. Alexandre de Senarclens, Member of Geneva Parliament, Switzerland
Mr. Philippe Schwarm, Administrative Councillor and Mayor of Pregny-Chambésy, Switzerland
Ms Cécile Auriol, Board Member ACAT Belgium
Ms Nathalie Seff, Executive Director, ACAT France
Mr. Christoph Schürhaus, ACAT Germany
Mr. M. Dominique Joris, ACAT Switzerland
Mr. Matthew Bugher, Head of Asia Programme, ARTICLE 19
Mr. Nguyen Le Hung, Bau Bi Tuong Than Association
Mr. Nguyen Van Dai, Chairman, Brotherhood for Democracy
Mr. Jean-Marc Comte, Deputy Chairman, Comité Suisse-Vietnam (Cosunam)
Ms Doreen Chen, Chairwoman, Destination Justice
Ms. Liane Plotzitzka, Board Member, Foundation Friedliche Revolution
Mr. Nguyen Van Hai, Free Journalists Club
Dr. Uta Kölle, German Doctors
Ms Sara Brandt, Political Advisor, Globalt Fokus
Ms Sophie de Graaf, Director, Lawyers for Lawyers
Ms Catherine Morris, Executive Director, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
Mr. Christophe Deloire, General Secretary, Reporters Without Borders
Mr. Peter Dahlin, Director, Safeguard Defenders
Mr. Do Hoang Diem, Chairman, Viet Tan
Mr. Benjamin Ismaïl, Watchdogs Unleashed
Public Figures in Civil Society:
Bishop Otto Georgens, Speyer Diocese, Germany
Cathedral Capitular Peter Schappert, Speyer diocese, Germany
Dr. Markus Leniger, Katholische Akademie Schwerte, Germany
Rev. Peter Bernd, Chief Parish Priest, Baselland, Germany
Dekan Alban Meißner, Ludwigshafen, Germany
Prof. Dr. Mathias Seifert, Hochschule Fresenius, Idstein, Germany
Dekan Johannes Pioth, Pirmasens, Germany
Mr. Markus Herr, Speyer Diocese spokesperson, Germany
Dr. Thomas Fandel, Speyer Diocese, Germany
Dr. Thomas Kiefer, Speyer Diocese, Germany
Dr. Stefan Breiter, Church Board, Parish Peter und Paul Witten/Wetter/Sprockhövel
Dr. Christoph Götz, Neustadt, Germany
Prof. Dr. Joachim Schmiedl, Valendar, Germany
Prof. Dr. Stefan Grüne, Chief Doctor, Neustadt, Germany
Prof. Dr. Gerd Morgenschweis, Essen, Germany
Dr. med. Helene Kamb, Germany
Rev. Jürgen Streuer, Münster, Germany
Dr. Ingo Grabowsky, Germany
Mr. Hans Kamb, Lawyer, Germany
Dr. Ansgar Hohmann, Germany
Dr. Christoph Kohl, Germany
Dr. Anke Schauer, Germany
Dr. Wolfgang Ortner, Germany
Dr. Christian Kämmerer, Germany
Dr. Alexander Hammer, Germany
Dr. Walter Zwick, Speyer, Germany
Dr. Wilhelm Dreyer, Speyer, Germany
Dr. Joachim Sommer, Ludwigshafen, Germany
Dr. Damian Bieger, Germany
Dr. Joachim Gehrmann, Dortmund, Germany
Dr. Dankwart Kölle, Biberach, Germany
Mr. Helmut Hofrichter, Lawyer, Neustadt, Germany
Ms Katharina Hofrichter, Psychologist, Neustadt, Germany
Dr. Jörg Breitmaier, medical director, Ludwigshafen, Germany
Mr. Hartwig Witthöft, Former School Principal, Neustadt, Germany
Rev. Michael Paul, Geinsheim, Germany
Rev. Christoph Kübler, Geinsheim, Germany
Rev. Gerhard Kästel, Geinsheim, Germany
Diakon Johannes Hellenbrand, Geinsheim, Germany
Rev. Anton Böckel, Diedesfeld, Germany
Dr Margarita Straubinger-Schöndorf, Neustadt, Germany
Dr Christian Schöndorf, Neustadt, Germany
Mr. Ali Benouari, Former Minister of Finance in Algeria, Switzerland
Mr. Michel Rossetti, Former Geneva Mayor, Switzerland
Mr. Marcel Monney, Former Grand-Saconnex Mayor, Switzerland
Ms Elizabeth Boehler-Goodship, Former Grand-Saconnex Mayor, Switzerland
Mr. Bernard Favre, Member of Cosunam, Switzerland
Ms Pascale Berry-Wavre, Member of Cosunam, Switzerland
Mr. Michel Goenczy, Senior official, Switzerland
Mr. Philippe Souaille, Journalist and Filmmaker, Switzerland
Mr. Bertrand Staempli, Former Geneva Airport Spokesperson, Switzerland
Mr. Pierre Martin-Achard, Lawyer, Switzerland