Leading Vietnamese Environmental Defender Freed

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April 8, 2014

EDLC and Boat People SOS are delighted to announce that Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu, 56, a lawyer, environmentalist, and pro-democracy activist, has been released from a Vietnamese prison and arrived on April 7, 2014 in Washington, D.C. He will serve as a scholar and fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy. EDLC and its partners have been working steadfastly for Dr. Vu’s release for the past three and one-half years.

Dr. Vu became nationally known for his pro-democracy views and for filing a lawsuit challenging construction of a hotel resort on a protected cultural heritage site, and a lawsuit against Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for having unlawfully approved a bauxite mining project in Vietnam’s Central Highlands that threatened environmental and health harms. He enjoyed extraordinarily broad support among diverse sectors of Vietnamese society, and became a cause célèbre through the power of the internet. Human Rights Watch issued a lengthy report, “Vietnam: The Party vs. Legal Activist Cu Huy Ha Vu,” describing the unique elements that made his case Vietnam’s most high-profile political trial in decades. Dr. Vu’s family’s revolutionary credentials made him one of the most prominent people to publicly question the rule of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

The trial of Dr. Vu in April 2011 lasted less than six hours. He was convicted on charges of “propaganda against the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” according to Article 88 of the Criminal Code and sentenced by Vietnam’s Supreme Court to seven years in prison and an additional three years of probation.
In 2011, EDLC filed legal briefs with both the trial and appeals courts in Vietnam, and alerted the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to the human rights violations in Dr. Vu’s case. The Working Group soon found Dr. Vu´s deprivation of liberty to be arbitrary and to violate human rights treaties to which Vietnam is a party, and urged the government to release him.
EDLC enlisted the support of attorneys at WilmerHale, LLP who, on a pro bono basis, have advocated on behalf of Dr. Vu in coordination with EDLC, Boat People SOS, Human Rights Watch,  and other human rights organizations.   
EDLC is thrilled that Dr. Vu is now free and welcomes him to the United States.
More information about the case can be found on the EDLC website


Death of activist Dinh Dang Dinh should be ‘wake-up call’ for Viet Nam

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Amnesty International
4 April 2014

Amnesty International has paid tribute to Dinh Dang Dinh, the Vietnamese environmental activist, blogger and former prisoner of conscience, who has died aged 50.

The activist was unjustly jailed in 2011 after starting a petition against a mining project and was diagnosed with cancer while in prison.

The authorities only allowed Dinh Dang Dinh to be treated in hospital from January 2014, where he was kept under constant surveillance. He was released temporarily on medical grounds in February, before being released permanently in March. 

Dinh Dang Dinh died of stomach cancer at his home in Dak Nong province in Viet Nam’s Central Highlands yesterday evening.

“We join human rights defenders in Viet Nam and across the world in mourning the loss of Dinh Dang Dinh and express our deepest condolences to his family,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

“It is a tragedy that the Vietnamese authorities stole the last years of Dinh Dang Dinh’s life, locking him up away from his loved ones.”

Read more: http://amnesty.org/en/news/death-activist-dinh-dang-dinh-should-be-wake-call-viet-nam-2014-04-04


Viet Nam land grabbing case needs to be urgently addressed – UN human rights experts

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GENEVA (26 March 2014) – A group of United Nations independent human rights experts on Wednesday called on the Vietnamese Government to intervene urgently in a case of forced eviction of the last remaining residents of Con Dau, a small village located on the outskirts of Da Nang city in central Viet Nam.

“This appears to be a clear case of land grabbing for the benefit of private entrepreneurs and at the expense of local communities,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Raquel Rolnik, said.  

In 2007, the local government of Da Nang city decided to expropriate the land of Con Dau village, used for housing and agriculture. Residents were opposed to the project and were offered inadequate compensation and housing alternatives in a distant location. The land was leased to the private company Sun Land to build an eco-resort.

In 2013, hundreds of residents moved out after facing pressure and threats, with some even seeing their homes demolished. Land use rights are reportedly now being sold by lots to private individuals.  On 7 March 2014, the local Da Nang government gave the remaining hundred or so households a deadline of 15 April 2014 to give up their land and move out. Meanwhile however, the compulsory demolition of homes is continuing, and it is feared that even before the deadline elapse, all houses will have been destroyed.

“Since about one hundred families are still struggling to keep their homes, we are making this urgent call to the Central Government of Viet Nam to step in firmly,” Ms. Rolnik added.

UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Farida Shaheed, who recently visited Viet Nam, noted that the village was home to a small Catholic community.

“Con Dau was built by the work of many generations of residents, who shaped their culture through cultivating rice and church activities,” she said.  “The parish cemetery, a national culture heritage site, has been demolished and removed to a remote area. Such acts are seriously disrupting the cultural and religious life of the community, and should immediately be ceased.”

UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt and UN Independent Expert on minority issues Rita Izsák have joined an urgent appeal that was sent to the Viet Nam Government earlier last week.    


The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures  of the Human Rights Council.  Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

They are charged by the Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on human rights issues. Currently, there are 37 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 72 mandate holders. In March 2014, three new mandates will be added. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Learn more, visit:
Housing: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/HousingIndex.aspx
Cultural rights:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/CulturalRights/Pages/SRCulturalRightsIndex.aspx
Religion: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/FreedomReligionIndex.aspx
Minorities:   http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Minorities/IExpert/Pages/IEminorityissuesIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Viet Nam: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/VNIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Mylène Bidault (+ 41 22 917 92 54 / mbidault@ohchr.org) or write to srculturalrights@ohchr.org

For media inquiries  related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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Hmong Ordered Jailed for Defying Vietnamese Government Campaign

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A provincial court in northern Vietnam on Friday sentenced a Hmong Christian to 18 months in jail for defying a government campaign forcing the ethnic minority group to return to older funeral practices now considered wasteful by many in the community.

Hoang Van Sang, 60, was handed an 18-month jail term by a court in Tuyen Quang province for “abusing democratic rights to infringe on the State and others’ benefits” under Article 258 of Vietnam’s penal code, his lawyer Tran Thu Nam told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Friday.

The charges appeared to stem from Sang’s efforts to raise funds within his community to build a funeral home to meet Hmong reforms for caring for and burying the dead, Nam said.

Community members “contributed money to build the funeral house and assigned Hoang Van Sang to buy materials for it,” Nam said. “No one demanded that he return any money. There is no victim here.”

Nam added that he had urged the court and local prosecutor’s office in considering Sang’s case to hand down only a warning rather than a criminal conviction.

“Hoang Van Sang had only committed an administrative mistake by building the house without official approval from the local government,” he said.

Sang, a follower of reformed burial and wedding practices proposed by Hmong Christian leader Duong Van Minh—now  in ill health in Hanoi—had at first faced a jail term of up to 21 months, but the sentence was reduced to 18 months following a hearing, Nam said.

Read more: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/hmong-03142014162845.html 

Former Vietnamese Official Jailed for Critical Blog Posts

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March 19, 2014

by Marianne Brown

Phạm Viết Đào, 62, on Wednesday became the latest blogger in Vietnam to receive a jail term for criticizing the government, as Hanoi continues an increasing crackdown against online dissident.
After a two-hour trial at the Hanoi People’s Court, Đào was sentenced to 15 months in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe the interests of the state” under Article 258 of the penal code.
His blog posts allegedly “distorted” and “vilified” senior leaders. Đào was a former official for the Ministry of Culture and long-standing member of the Vietnamese Communist Party. He chose to represent himself in court.
On the day of his trial many activists expressed their support for the blogger on Facebook. Among them was 23-year-old Trinh Kim Tien, a prominent campaigner against police violence in Vietnam. She posted a photograph of herself with Đào during an anti-China demonstration in 2011.
She said Dao wrote on politics and a variety of human rights issues in Vietnam and was very influential. She said he was well known among anti-China protesters because his younger brother was killed during the 1979 border war with China.

Read more: http://www.voanews.com/content/former-vietnamese-official-jailed-for-critical-blog-posts/1874314.html