Vietnamese Lawyers Endure Unfair Trial: Vietnam Must Honour Its Commitments
14 May 2007 6:27 am

Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and Ms. Le Thi Cong Nhan, have been sentenced for distributing hostile propaganda in a trial that was conducted under suspect circumstances, completed in only one day. The Vietnamese court must reconsider its decision.

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) today expressed deep regret on the conduct of the trial and sentencing of two Vietnamese lawyers, Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and Ms. Le Thi Cong Nhan. It also urged the judiciary of Vietnam to comply with its obligations under national and international law to promote and protect human rights by reconsidering the sentence it imposed on Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and Ms. Le Thi Cong Nhan, and to accord a fair and impartial trial and due process of law to the other dissidents being charged under Article 88 of the Criminal Code of Vietnam.

Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and his associate, Ms. Le Thi Cong Nhan, are Vietnamese lawyers whom have been vocal about their views on religious freedom and human rights in Vietnam. Mr. Nguyen Van Dai maintained a blog on the internet where he posted his pro-democracy essays and views on human rights. In June 2006, Mr. Nguyen Van Dai wrote an article on the “right to found a party in Vietnam” for the BBC’s Vietnamese-language website. On March 6, 2007, Vietnamese authorities arrested Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and Ms. Le Thi Cong Nhan in their homes for violating Article 88 of the Criminal Code of Vietnam. This provision prohibits the distribution of “hostile propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” Since their arrest, Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and Ms. Le Thi Cong Nhan have been kept under pre-trial custody. They were only brought before a court on 11 May 2007, after more than one month of detention.

In its letter to Judge Nguyen Van Hien, Presiding Judge of the Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam, FORUM-ASIA expressed disappointment on how the judiciary of Vietnam handled the trial of the two lawyers. The letter stated that Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and Ms. Le Thi Cong Nhan were not given a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal, nor were they accorded the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law.

FORUM-ASIA noted the circumstances within which the trial and sentencing were conducted. First, neither the public nor the families of Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and Ms. Le Thi Cong Nhan were allowed in the courtroom during the trial. Second, the trial lasted for only half a day, with the verdict released almost immediately after the court adjourned.

“The period of time within which the trial was held clearly demonstrates that Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and Ms. Le Thi Cong Nhan were not allowed to properly present their defence, nor to examine or have examined the witnesses against them. We believe that the entire trial was a sham, with the verdict and sentence prepared even before Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and Ms. Le Thi Cong Nhan appeared in court. The court should really reconsider its decision against Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and Ms. Le Thi Cong Nhan,” said Anselmo Lee, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

Another trial will be held on Tuesday, 15 May 2007. Mr. Tran Quoc Hien, another dissident accused of violating Article 88 of the Criminal Code of Vietnam will be brought

before the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City. FORUM-ASIA expressed fear that the trial of Mr. Tran Quoc Hien will be another sham. It thus reminded the judiciary of Vietnam of its obligations under national and international law: Vietnam acceded to the ICCPR on 24 September 1982 and thus, it has the obligation to promote and protect the rights therein; furthermore, respect for human rights is already enshrined in the country’s national law. Article 50 of the Constitution of Vietnam specifically states that “the Socialist Republic of Vietnam respects human rights in the political, civil, economic, and cultural fields.”

Anselmo Lee further stressed that Vietnam should respect its obligation under national and international law by respecting the human rights of all persons in Vietnam whom also stand accused of violating Article 88 of the Criminal Code of Vietnam for merely expressing their thoughts on freedom and democracy through their writings and campaigns.
“FORUM-ASIA is aware that Vietnam considers economic development its main goal for the future. However, we believe that economic development cannot sustain itself without the promotion of democracy and respect for human rights,” said Anselmo Lee.

(Read full text of FORUM-ASIA's letter to Judge Nguyen Van Hien, Presiding Judge of the Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam.)

For more information, please contact Anselmo Lee, Executive Director, telephone +66 2 391 8801; email: anselmo@forum-asia.org; Emerlynne Gil, Programme Officer of the Human Rights Defenders Programme, telephone: +66 2 391 8801; email: em@forum-asia.org.