Vietnam called to release prisoners of conscience

A group of 12 international Christian organisations have written an open letter to the Vietnamese Prime Minister, calling for the release of lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and other prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.

The letter is a joint initiative by 12 members of the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP), a collaborative effort of Christian organisations in over 20 countries which supports and advocates for religious freedom for all.

The letter expresses concern about the sentencing on 5 April of Christian human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and five other defendants, including Protestant pastor and activist Nguyen Trung Ton and legal expert Nguyen Bac Truyen. The six individuals have been sentenced to between seven and 15 years in prison for ‘carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the government’ under Article 79 of the Vietnamese penal code.

All three defendants have peacefully advocated for the rights and freedoms afforded to Vietnamese citizens under Vietnamese and international law. None of them has been involved in any violent activities… The hundreds of actions taken for Nguyen Van Dai and the other defendants demonstrate the strength of concern and attention from the international community.

The letter also notes that following the April trial, a European Union External Action Service spokesperson issued a statement saying that the sentences are in direct breach of international obligations which Vietnam has itself signed up to, and emphasised the EU’s commitment to the protection of human rights defenders around the world. The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and a US State Department Spokesperson also issued statements of concern.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s (CSW’s) Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW is proud to be a part of this initiative calling for the release of Nguyen Van Dai, Nguyen Trung Ton and Nguyen Bac Truyen, and the other defendants tried on 5 April. We also note that in the intervening weeks, other activists have also been given lengthy sentences for advocating for universal human rights. We join numerous voices in the international community in calling on the Vietnamese government to release immediately and unconditionally the six defendants and all those detained in connection with their peaceful defence of human rights, in line with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a party.”