Senator Ngo condemns Vietnam’s ongoing persecution against prisoners of conscience
[For immediate release]- February 3, 2021
Today, Senator Thanh Hai Ngo issued the following Statement in response to the Vietnam communist regime’s continued and relentless persecution against prisoners of conscience:
On January 5, 2021, a court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced the following three dissident Vietnamese journalists with heavy sentences – a combined 37 years – simply for exercising their inherent and inalienable rights to freedom of expression: Mr. Pham Chi Dung was handed a 15-year prison term. An independent journalist, Ph.D. in Economics, and President of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), Mr. Dung was arrested on November 21, 2019 and charged with “conducting propaganda against the state”. Mr. Dung maintains that he committed no crime. In a written statement released on January 18, 2020, Mr. Dung confirms his decision not to appeal his sentence. For him, there can be no justice when the courts issue and uphold pre-determined verdicts for the vast majority of cases concerning political dissidents. He stresses that his choice is in no way an acceptance of his harsh prison sentence, but rather, a recognition of the futility of such a pursuit, given the systemic tyranny and corruption that dominates the judicial system – and the rest of communist Vietnam’s institutions. Mr. Dung’s IJAVN colleagues, Mssrs. Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Le Huu Minh Tuan were also sentenced (both received 11 years imprisonment, under similar charges). On January 21, the European Parliament adopted a resolution asserting the importance of ‘respect for human rights’ as an essential element of successful bilateral relations, particularly in regard to the recently-ratified EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement. In a released statement, they condemned Vietnam’s worsening human rights record and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the three journalists (as well as all other prisoners of conscience). Some EU lawmakers called for tariffs between the EU and Vietnam to be restored.
On January 14, 2021, it was reported by media that Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, an ardent pro-democracy advocate, has been hospitalized following a 50-day hunger strike (started on November 24, 2020). His hunger strike was launched after his petition for his case to be reviewed under the new Penal Code had gone unanswered. Mr. Thuc was admitted to the Vietnam-Poland Hospital in Nghe An, Vinh City. Despite complete silence (and in some cases, outright denial) by Vietnamese authorities and hospital staff, the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam as well as local friends and family residing in Nghe An, were able to confirm Mr. Thuc’s emergency hospitalization. A once successful engineer and entrepreneur, Mr. Thuc was indicted on January 20, 2010 by People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code for ‘subversion’ or ‘activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration’ handing him a 16-year jail term. Having already served 12 years of his 16-year sentence, he is urging the High Court to consider his request to have his sentence reduced in accordance with the 2015 Penal Code (his lawyer arguing that evidence provided by the prosecution could only show that Mr. Thuc was in “preparation” to commit a crime under Section 3, which now carries a maximum term of 5 years in prison).
The government of Canada, our democratic allies and the United Nations have a duty to safeguard and uphold the international rules-based order and urge the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to ensure that its actions are consistent with its international human rights obligations and commitments. It is imperative that we continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of these prisoners of conscience.
For more information, please contact:
Office of the Honourable Thanh Hai Ngo