FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 24, 2023
Contact : Dr. Suzie Xuyen Dong | +1 (346) 704-4744
In an open letter to the Vietnamese Prime Minister, human rights activists and elected officials from around the world called on the Vietnamese authorities to immediately release Vietnamese-Australian activist Chau Van Kham and respect the recommendations of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD).
The letter stated that “on June 7, 2022, the UNWGAD ruled that the arrest and detention of Chau Van Kham lacks a legal basis and is thus arbitrary.” The UN Working Group concluded that Mr. Kham’s detention “resulted from the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of conscience and belief and freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs”. In addition, the Working Group determined that Mr. Kham’s right to a fair trial and due process were violated.” In sum, the persecution of activist Chau Van Kham by the Vietnamese government violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
At the end of 2022, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam lobbied intensively to join the United Nations Human Rights Council. “As a member of this council, Vietnam has a duty to protect and respect human rights”, the signatories of the letter noted.
January 2023 marks four years of the arbitrary detention of Sydney resident Chau Van Kham, who is a retired baker and a member of Viet Tan. He was detained in Vietnam in January 2019 while meeting with members of the Brotherhood for Democracy. The Vietnamese government sentenced the Australian citizen to 12 years in prison on “terrorism” charges, even though the indictment did not mention any acts of violence. Human Rights Watch has described the court verdict as a “death sentence” because of Kham’s age. Kham’s wife and children have grave concerns for his well-being as he suffers from glaucoma, high blood pressure, and kidney stones.
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January 24, 2023
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
16 Le Hong Phong Street
Ba Dinh District
Ha Noi, Viet Nam
Re: Calling for the release of Mr. Chau Van Kham
Dear Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh:
We are writing to express our grave concern over the arbitrary detention of Chau Van Kham, an Australian citizen imprisoned in Vietnam for the last four years.
Mr. Kham was arrested on January 13, 2019 while in Vietnam, where he had traveled to meet with local civil society. His arrest occurred only days before the UN Human Rights Council held its Universal Periodic Review of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s human rights record. Two other human rights activists, Nguyen Van Vien and Tran Van Quyen, who are both members of the Brotherhood for Democracy, were arrested for being in contact with Mr. Kham. All three individuals were subsequently sentenced between 10 and 12 years in prison under charges of “terrorism.”
All three individuals are peaceful activists. Your government has not produced a single piece of evidence that these men engaged in any terrorist activities.
In its opinion published on June 7, 2022, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that the arrest and detention of Chau Van Kham “lacks a legal basis and is thus arbitrary.” The UN Working Group concluded that Mr. Kham’s detention “resulted from the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of conscience and belief and freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs,” contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition, the Working Group determined that Mr. Kham’s right to a fair trial and due process were violated.
The Working Group further recognized that the mere association of Mr. Chau Van Kham with the peaceful organization Viet Tan in no way justifies his detention and recalled that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights considers Viet Tan to be a legal and peaceful organization advocating democratic reforms.
As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has a duty to protect and promote human rights.
Therefore, we add our voices to urge your government to respect international conventions on human rights by immediately releasing Mr. Chau Van Kham. The place of this 73-year-old activist is not in prison but with his family, in Australia, particularly in this period of the Lunar New Year.
Ms Saskia Bricmont, Member of the European Parliament
Mr. Sébastien Desfayes, Member of the Geneva Parliament, Chairman of the Swiss-Vietnam Committee (Cosunam)
Hon. Judy A. Sgro, Member of Parliament, Chair International Trade, Former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Canada
Ms Cécile Auriol, ACAT Belgium
Mr. Pascal Zohoun, President of ACAT Benin
Mr. Gomdaogo Francis Alex Ilboudo, President of ACAT Burkina Faso
Lawyer Armel NIYONGERE, ACAT Burundi
Ms Sylvie Lavigne, ACAT Canada
Mr. Bernard Katumba, ACAT Democratic Republic of Congo
Ms Nathalie SEFF, Executive Director ACAT-France
Mr. Christoph Schürhaus, ACAT Germany
Ms Ivy Florence Ayivor-Vieira, ACAT Ghana
Mr. Massimo Corti, ACAT Italia
Mr. Dale Nikke Tokpah, President of ACAT Liberia
Ms Christina Fabian, President of ACAT Luxemburg
Ms Ericka Razakanirahina, ACAT Madagascar
Mr. Jean Christophe Konate, ACAT Mali
Mr. Emili Chalaux, President of ACAT Spain-Catalonia
Ms Bettina Ryser Ndeye, Secretary General, ACAT-Switzerland
Mr. Jean-Daniel Vigny, Swiss member of the International Board of the FIACAT
Mr. Nguyen Van Dai, Chairman, Brotherhood for Democracy
Ms Doreen Chen, Executive Director, Destination Justice
Mr. Duy Hoang, Executive Director, Viet Tan
Dr. Alan Lowenthal, former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
Mr. Frank Heinrich, former member of the German Parliament
Mr. Martin Patzelt, former member of the German Parliament
Dr. Jörg Breitmaier, Hospital director
Dr. Ansgar Hohmann, Scientific researcher
Prof. Dr. Walter Motsch
Prof. Dr. Johannes Kals
Prof. Dr. Stephan Grüne
Dr. Christoph Kohl, Cathedral Chaplain