Paris, 6 March 2014: Vietnam must immediately and unconditionally release the over 200 political prisoners who are languishing in jails across the country, FIDH and its member organization, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), said today. In connection with this demand, FIDH and VCHR jointly published the profiles of 17 political prisoners, whose cases are of particular concern.
“Vietnam holds the highest number of political prisoner in Southeast Asia. That is deplorable for a country that is currently a member of the UN Human Rights Council,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “The recent string of convictions, assaults, and harassment of bloggers, journalists, and activists shows that the Vietnamese government’s crackdown on dissidents is intensifying. It’s time for the international community to mobilize and demand that Hanoi stop the repression of peaceful dissent and release all political prisoners,” Mr. Lahidji urged.
It is estimated that there are at least 212 political prisoners behind bars in Vietnam and many more are under house arrest. Those incarcerated include lawyers, bloggers, land rights activists, Buddhist monks, journalists, writers, singers, labor activists, pro-democracy campaigners, and members of ethnic and religious minorities, including Hmong, Buddhist Khmer Krom, and Christian Montagnards.  Many of Vietnam’s political prisoners are women. Many of the dissidents are serving lengthy prison terms in extremely poor detention conditions. As a result, their health is deteriorating and they are in need of urgent medical treatment and ongoing care.
FIDH and VCHR also urged the Vietnamese government to undertake a comprehensive review of legislation used to arrest and imprison activists who have merely exercised their fundamental human rights.
“Vietnam must immediately repeal draconian laws that severely restrict freedom of opinion and expression,” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai. “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 Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam is a state party,” he added.
On February 5, at Vietnam’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, the government’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ha Kim Ngoc said that Vietnam has a “consistent policy” to respect, protect, and promote all fundamental human rights and promised that Hanoi would “expand democracy.”