GENEVA: Vietnam has harassed and assaulted activists in an “intensifying crackdown” on human rights defenders, the UN said Friday, calling for the release of bloggers given long prison terms for criticizing the state.
The United Nations human rights office highlighted the cases of two prominent activists— Tran Thi Nga and Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh—who in recent weeks were jailed for nine and 10 years respectively.
Both were punished under article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code, which prohibits “anti-state propaganda.”
The UN condemned the “flawed judicial proceedings” that led to both convictions.
In Nga’s case, the 40-year-old best known for her anti-China activism was held incommunicado from her arrest in January until a few days before her trial, which lasted one day.
AFP’s request to attend the trial was not answered by local authorities, and several activists said they were harassed by plainclothes police outside the courthouse.
“We urge the Vietnamese authorities to immediately release all those detained in connection with their exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, and to amend the overly broad ill-defined laws that are used—under the pretext of national security—to crack down on dissent,” the rights office said in a statement.
It added that many activists had been “intimidated, harassed and brutally beaten”.
“Human rights defenders should never be treated as criminals who are a threat to national security,” the statement said.
Dissidents, rights lawyers and bloggers are routinely jailed in communist Vietnam but rights groups and activists accuse the new government in place since last year of waging a particularly harsh crackdown on its critics.
Dozens of activists are imprisoned in the country, where all independent media is banned and public protests are routinely broken up, often violently. AFP