International Community Demands Justice for the People of Dong Tam

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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
Prime Minister
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
16 Le Hong Phong Street
Ba Dinh District


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.


Political Representatives:

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


International Organizations:

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

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