PARIS-GENEVA, March 4, 2014. This morning, a court in Danang, central Vietnam, sentenced prominent blogger and human rights defender Truong Duy Nhat to two years in prison under Article 258(2) of the Criminal Code for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State”. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an FIDH-OMCT joint programme, together with the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), denounce Truong Duy Nhat’s conviction and sentencing and call on the Vietnamese Government to release him and the other human rights defenders who are languishing in jails across the country.
Truong Duy Nhat has been detained since his arrest on May 26, 2013. Police arrested him for publishing online articles critical of the Government on his blog A Different Point of View Truong Duy Nhat is a former journalist with State-run newspapers “Bao Cong An Quang Nam Danang” (Quang Nam Danang Security Police newspaper) and “Dai Doan Ket” (Great Solidarity newspaper). In 2011, he quit his work as a reporter to write for his blog which became widely known for its criticism of the government (1). In his blog, Truong Duy Nhat frequently critiqued the performance of top government officials, including the Prime Minister, from the point of view of the rights enshrined in Vietnam’s legislation and the international covenants Vietnam has signed.
Scores of human rights defenders and cyber-dissidents are currently serving long prison sentences or awaiting trial in Vietnam (2). Another blogger, Pham Viet Dao, arrested in the first semester of 2013, faces a prison sentence of up to seven years also for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State”. His blog aims at informing people about human rights and advocating ways to promote and protect them.
Our organisations urge Vietnam to immediately repeal draconian laws that severely restrict freedom of opinion and expression. The Government’s claim that it respects and protects human rights will continue to ring hollow unless Vietnam upholds its obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right (ICCPR).
Our organisations reiterate their call on the Vietnamese authorities to ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals, in line with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.