GENEVA (14 October 2016) - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday expressed concern about a growing crackdown by the Viet Nam Government on human rights defenders, including the arrest this week of popular blogger and Government critic Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known online as Mother Mushroom.
Quynh was arrested on Monday in the central province of Khanh Hoa under Article 88 of the Penal Code, which prohibits “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.” The crime is deemed a national security offence and carries a sentence of up to 20 years in jail. Under the Vietnamese criminal procedural code dealing with the investigation of so-called national security offences, Quynh can be detained incommunicado for at least four months.
“Article 88 effectively makes it a crime for any Vietnamese citizen to enjoy the fundamental freedom to express an opinion, to discuss or to question the Government and its policies,” said Zeid. “The overly broad, ill-defined scope of this law makes it all too easy to quash any kind of dissenting views and to arbitrarily detain individuals who dare to criticize Government policies.”
Zeid said incommunicado detention for such an extended period of time – particularly without access to family members and to legal counsel – is conducive to torture and may amount to torture itself, in violation of the Convention against torture (CAT), which Viet Nam ratified in February 2015.
“I urge the Government of Viet Nam to abide by its obligations under human rights law, to drop these charges against Ms. Quynh and to release her immediately,” the High Commissioner added.
Other similar cases over the past year include the continued incommunicado detention of lawyer and human rights activist Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha, who were arrested in December 2015 under Article 88; the sentencing after almost two years of incommunicado detention of Mr. Nguyen Huu Vinh, also known as Anh Ba Sam and his assistant Ms Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, in March 2016 to five years and three years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms” under article 258 of the Penal Code,; and the sentencing of Mr. Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy and Nguyen Huu Thien An to three years and two years in prison respectively under Article 88 in August 2016.
High Commissioner Zeid expressed deep concern at this growing trend of arbitrary arrests and detentions, intimidation, harassment and attacks against human rights defenders. He urged the Government of Viet Nam to repeal Article 88, as well as other provisions that breach international human rights standards such as articles 79, 87, 245 and 258 of the Penal Code. He also called for the immediate release of all individuals detained in connection with these provisions.