COURAGEOUS CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE, NGUYEN VAN DAI, PERSECUTED
Nguyen Van Dai is one of Vietnam's few practising human rights lawyers and a founder of the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam. As noted by Human Rights Watch (HRW) the persecution of Nguyen Van Dai commenced in August 2006 as he and other dissidents were planning to launch an independentbulletin. (Link 1)
An August 2006 bulletin from the Law Office of Nguyen Van Dai entitled"Vietnam Steps up Repression of Religious Freedom" can be viewed at Link 2.
HRW reports that Dai was detained and interrogated by police from 9 to 14 November 2006 and kept under house arrest from 15 to 22 November while theAPEC meetings were in progress.
As reported in a recent WEA RLC News & Analysis posting, the persecution against Dai intensified in early February 2007 after he hosted Vietnam's first ever discussion on human rights law. (Link 3)
Nguyen Van Dai is being persecuted because, as a lawyer who is representing the persecuted Church and advocating for religious liberty, he has considerable evidence that Vietnam is not living up to its international agreements to improve religious liberty in the country. If Vietnam is to retain its privileges while continuing its persecution, then Nguyen Van Dai must be silenced.
UPDATE: NGUYEN VAN DAI CHARGED AND ARRESTED
According to a press release from The People's Democratic Party (PDP: link4) "Vietnamese human rights lawyer Nguyen van Dai, a founder of theCommittee for Human Rights in Vietnam, one of eight Vietnamese to be awardedthe Hellman/Hammett grant [from Human Rights Watch], was arrested in Ha Noion 6 March 2007."
According to the PDP, lawyer Le Thi Cong Nhan, spokesperson of Thang TienParty (The Progression Party) was arrested from her home at 10 am on thesame day. She had been detained and interrogated with Dai in early February.
The government mouthpiece, the Viet Nam News Agency, reported (7 March):"The Ha Noi Investigation and Security Police yesterday arrested Nguyen VanDai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, attorneys of the Thien An Law Office at 10 DoanTran Nghiep Street in Hanoi, on charges of propagandising against the Stateof the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
"Nguyen Van Dai, 38, head of the Thien An Law Office, and Le Thi Cong Nhan, 28, an attorney registered to work at the office, were arrested underVietnam's Penal Code, Term 88, Article 1, points a and c."
According to Viet Nam News Agency, documents seized in a search of Dia's law office "contained distorted information on the country's situation, inflammatory statements against the Government, information related to the establishment and announcement of reactionary organisations opposing the State of Vietnam.
"The investigators also found many documents that proved that Dai and Nhanreceived instructions and financial support from overseas to open courses onhuman rights and democracy and to sponsor people who signed their petitions so as to lure forces against the State of Vietnam, as well as to collectVietnam's socio-political and religious information for parties abroad.
"The initial results of the investigation showed that since 2004, Dai tookadvantage of the State's permission to establish the law office topropagandise, gather forces and conspire with political opportunists andhostile forces at home and abroad to oppose the State. Nhan has activelyhelped Dai, according to the initial results of the investigation.
"These alleged acts run counter to the interests of the nation and people,seriously violating Vietnam's laws." (Link 5)
Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan have both been charged with violatingarticle 88 of Viet Nam's Criminal Law which deals with "conductingpropaganda activities to harm the security of state". The PDP reports thatthe arrest order provides for Dai and Nhan to be temporarily incarceratedfor four months pending further investigation.
Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan have both been charged with violatingarticle 88 of Viet Nam's Criminal Law which deals with "conductingpropaganda activities to harm the security of state". The PDP reports thatthe arrest order provides for Dai and Nhan to be temporarily incarceratedfor four months pending further investigation. They have been incarceratedin Prison 1 (new Hoa Lo prison), Cau Dien village, Tu Liem district in HaNoi. Dai's wife, Mrs. Vu Minh Khai is under intense surveillance. Sourceshave reported to PDP that Dai and Nhan have commenced a hunger strike.
The "Vietnam Committee" news release on the website of "Que Me: Action forDemocracy in Vietnam" adds that while the arrest warrant condemns thelawyers to four months detention, "In fact, they risk a much longerdetention. Under Vietnam's Criminal Procedures Code, this 4-month period maybe extended four times for national security offenders (i.e. a total of 20months), after which the People's Procurator is entitled to apply 'otherdeterrent measures' (Article 120)." (Link 6)
Que Me comments: "Article 88 is one of the vaguely-defined, catch-all'national security' offences in Vietnam's Criminal Code which have incurredwidespread international criticism. In July 2002, the United Nations HumanRights Committee denounced these provisions as 'incompatible' withinternational human rights law and demanded their immediate repeal."
Que Me quotes Mr Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on HumanRights as saying, "We anticipated this crack-down on dissent after the APEC Summit, once Vietnam had obtained all it wanted from the international community, such as WTO membership and removal from the US State department's blacklist of Countries of Particular Concern for religious freedom violations [see link 7]. We did not have to wait long. Today, Vietnam has resorted to its old repressive habits, crushing all peaceful voices of dissent. The arrest of Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan and other pro-democracy activists, as well as intensified repression against leaders of 20 Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam all over Vietnam, reveal the hypocrisy and double language of the Vietnamese regime".
The PDP news release also reports that police have been harassing and intimidating several members of the Mennonite Church in Central Region of Vietnam. "Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang has asked for urgent help due to constantly harassment from the police on Mennonite followers in remote areaas Plei Ku city, Gia Ray province".
Other victims of religious persecution include Father Nguyen Van Ly who hasalso been accused of violating Article 88। Father Ly has been forciblyremoved from his parish and placed under house-arrest in a remote location.(Link 8)
1) Vietnam: Dissidents Struggle to Exercise Free SpeechEight Writers Win Prestigious Hellman/Hammett PrizeHRW, 6 February 2007 http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/02/06/vietna15277.htm
2) To understand why the Vietnamese government is persecuting Nguyen vanDai, see:"Vietnam Steps up Repression of Religious Freedom".From the Law Office of Nguyen Van Dai. 21 August 2006
3) Vietnam Persecuting Honoured Christian AdvocateWEA RLC News & Analysis, 19 Feb 2007
4) The People's Democratic Party
5) Two lawyers arrested for anti-Government activities. 7 March 2007
6) Vietnam crackdown on pro-democracy activists: Lawyers Nguyen Van Dai andLe Thi Cong Nhan arrested in HanoiPARIS, 6th March 2007 (Vietnam Committee)http://www.queme.net/eng/news_detail.php?numb=760
7) United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
USCIRF Disappointed About Removal of Vietnam from U.S. Government's List ofReligious Freedom Violators; Welcomes Re-Designation of Saudi Arabia andAddition of Uzbekistan. 13 November 2006
8) Fr Nguyen Van Ly arrested in Hue. 21 Feb 2007