On 7 October 2014, the former cell mate of imprisoned Vietnamese human rights defender Mr Dang Xuan Dieu reported the severe, inhuman treatment of Dang Xuan Dieu who has been held in isolation and unable to communicate with anyone outside of the prison since April 2014
On 7 October 2014, the former cell mate of imprisoned Vietnamese human rights defender Mr Dang Xuan Dieu reported the severe, inhuman treatment of Dang Xuan Dieu who has been held in isolation and unable to communicate with anyone outside of the prison since April 2014, when he began a long-term hunger strike in protest over prisoners’ rights.
Prior to his arrest in July 2011 Dang Xuan Dieu was an engineer and community leader, providing access to education for poor students and assistance to typhoon victims. He was a contributing journalist for Vietnam Redemptorist News.
On 9 January 2013, after two years of pre-trial detention, Dang Xuan Dieu was convicted together with fourteen other Vietnamese activists on trumped-up charges of “attempting to overthrow the government” under Article 79 of the country’s Criminal Code. The human rights defender was sentenced to thirteen years imprisonment, followed by five years house arrest. Dang Xuan Dieu was unable to appeal the verdict against him and called for the re-investigation of his case.
Dang Xuan Dieu was incarcerated in prison No. B4 in the city of Hanoi, but was later transferred to prison No. 5 in Thanh Hoa province. Reportedly, the human rights defender insisted that he was innocent and refused to wear the prison uniform bearing the word “criminal”. He also complained that his letters to the authorities remained unanswered. Dang Xuan Dieu’s family members, who were allowed to visit him just once and only in Hanoi prison, and his former fellow inmates reported various abuses against him. The human rights defender’s daily meal portion and drinking water allowance have been cut by the prison administration. Dang Xuan Dieu was reportedly assaulted and beaten by prison officials. Protesting against such abuses, in April 2014 the human rights defender went on a prolonged hunger strike. Since that time, Dang Xuan Dieu has been isolated from the outside world and his family are not allowed to visit him in prison.
As a result of such isolation, the first detailed information about the mistreatment of Dang Xuan Dieu only emerged on 7 October 2014 when his friend and ex-cell mate Mr Truong Minh Tam was released from the same prison. As Truong Minh Tam stated, the human rights defender has been treated like an “animal” and a “slave” since being held in solitary confinement. Reportedly the cell was between 6-8 square meters wide, and prisoners were sometimes chained there in pairs. As the released inmate witnessed, during the summertime the prison administration put more prisoners into Dang Xuan Dieu’s cell to overcrowd it, making it difficult to breathe, and during the winter the human rights defender was left alone in the cold.
According to the information received, Dang Xuan Dieu was not provided with toilet paper, and faeces were often purposely left for up to ten days in his cell, creating an unhealthy and unbearable stench. Reportedly, the human rights defender was forced to live and sleep next to his excrement. He was not allowed to have regular showers or to brush his teeth.
As Dang Xuan Dieu’s ex-cell mate reported, the human rights defender went on hunger strike several times in protest at the conditions that he and other inmates faced, which he considered a deprivation of basic human rights. Every time the prison administration responded with more degrading treatment. The human rights defender was often humiliated, beaten and forced to pose for other prisoners as a “half-human, half-beast” figure, as his ex-cell mate described. According to him, a few days prior to his release he heard Dang Xuan Dieu in the cell next door screaming: “I want to live, I want to eat but my throat is strangled. Give me back my right to eat!”
Front Line Defenders is concerned for the health and wellbeing of Dang Xuan Dieu and the treatment that he has been subject to in incommunicado detention.