UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calls on Vietnam to release detained journalists Nguyen Van Hoa and Le Dinh Luong
In two decisions released this week the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has called on Vietnam to release detained journalists Nguyen Van Hoa and Le Dinh Luong
Nguyen Van Hoa and Le Dinh Luong are citizen journalists and environmental activists. They were arrested and detained as a result of their criticism of the government following the 2016 Formosa environmental disaster.
Nguyen Van Hoa was arrested in January 2017 and held incommunicado for two months. He was convicted of “conducting propaganda against the state” and sentenced to seven years in prison, followed by three years under house arrest. Throughout the trial he was denied legal representation and his family were never told about his trial.
Le Dinh Luong was arrested in July 2017 and charged with “conducting activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration”. He was held in pre-trial detention for over 12 months and during this time was only allowed to meet with his lawyer once. In August 2018 he was convicted, in a trial that lasted five hours, and, on the same day, sentenced to 20 years imprisonment followed by five years under house arrest.
MLDI filed complaints at the Working Group asking that it finds that both journalists are unlawfully detained, and request their immediate release. In so doing, the Working Group emphasised that both journalists had been arrested because they were exercising their right to freedom of expression. The Working Group also stated that they had been targeted by state authorities on discriminatory grounds, owing to their status as human rights defenders.
Notably, the Working Group observed that their cases followed “a familiar pattern of arrest that does not comply with international norms, lengthy detention pending trial with no access to judicial review, denial of access to legal counsel, incommunicado detention, prosecution under vaguely worded criminal offences for the peaceful exercise of human rights, a brief closed trial at which due process is not observed, disproportionate sentencing, and denial of access to the outside world and to medical treatment.” As with previous cases relating to the detention of journalists, they considered that this pattern “indicates a systemic problem with arbitrary detention in Viet Nam”.
The Working Group’s decisions are welcome confirmation that the detentions are unlawful under international law, however Nguyen Van Hoa and Le Dinh Luong remain in prison in conditions and circumstances that are having a very serious impact on their health. In September 2019, MLDI filed two urgent appeals requesting that, at a minimum, they be provided with appropriate medical care. Nguyen Van Hoa has been in solitary confinement since May 2019. He has been physically assaulted by prison guards, threatened with further violence and denied medical attention. Le Dinh Luong has been placed on “disciplinary” status indefinitely as punishment for attempting to mobilise prisoners to complain about mistreatment at the prison. As a result, he is not able to receive food or books from his family. He is also prevented from practicing his religion and is being denied medical help.
The Working Group’s Opinions
Please contact MLDI’s Legal Director, Pádraig Hughes, for further information – firstname.lastname@example.org