VIETNAM: Mounting concerns for the health of writers and activists Dinh Dang Dinh, Nguyen Van Ly and Nguyen Huu Cau

7 March 2014 – RAN 06/14

PEN International is gravely concerned for the health of blogger Dinh Dang Dinh, who is suffering from end-stage stomach cancer and was transferred to hospital on 15 February 2014. PEN is also seriously concerned for the health of poet, essayist, scholar and Catholic Priest Father Nguyen Van Ly, and writer and activist Nguyen Huu Cau. Both are serving lengthy prison sentences in Vietnam imposed for their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, and are seriously ill. PEN International is calling for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Vietnam is a state party and on humanitarian grounds.

Please send appeals:

  • Expressing serious concern for the health of writers and activists Dinh Dang Dinh, Nguyen Van Ly and Nguyen Huu Cau and urging that they are given full access to all necessary medical care as a matter of urgency;
  • Calling for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the ICCPR to which Vietnam is state party, and on humanitarian grounds.

Appeals to:

His Excellency Truong Tan Sang
President of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
Hung Vuong street
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi
Viet Nam

Mr Nguyen Tan Dung
Prime Minister
1 Hoang Hoa Tham street
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi
Viet Nam
Fax: +84 80 44130/ +84 80 44940

Mr Phan Binh Minh
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1 Ton That Dam steet
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi
Viet Nam
Fax: +844 3823 1872
Email: bc.mfa [at] [dot] vn

It would also be advantageous to ask your country’s diplomatic representatives in Vietnam to intervene in the case. For some Vietnamese embassies in the world:

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On 9 August 2012, Dinh Dang Dinh, 51, (pen name: Van Nguyen) was sentenced by the Dak Nong province’s People Court to six years in prison under Article 88-1 (c) of the Criminal Code for “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.” Defending himself at the half-day closed trial, he pleaded not guilty. His sentence was upheld on appeal at a 45-minute hearing on 21 November 2012. The charges were brought against him after he published articles tackling corruption and environmental issues, deemed as anti-government on his blog. Dinh is reported to have undergone an operation for liver and stomach cancer in November 2013. His health is said to have declined rapidly while in detention owing in part to poor detention conditions.

Until recently, Dinh Dang Dinh was detained in the Public Security Police Cong An detention camp, Dak Nong province. On 15 February 2014, he was granted a one-year “temporary suspension” of his prison sentence, owing to the rapid decline of his health. He is currently being held at Ho Chi Minh’s Oncology Hospital for medical treatment, where his wife reports that he is kept under close guard and 24-hour surveillance. While his family has been permitted to visit him in hospital, his friends have not. His wife, Dang Thi Dinh, has called on the international community to urge the Vietnamese government to release him back to his family before he dies. She believes that his life can now be counted in “days and hours.” According to PEN’s information, Dinh Dang Dinh has not eaten for over a month.

Father Nguyen Van Ly, 67, a Catholic priest and co-editor of the underground online magazine Tu do Ngôn luan (Free Speech), was arrested on 19 February 2007 and sentenced to eight years in prison on 30 March 2007 for ‘Conducting propaganda against the State’. Nguyen Van Ly is a leading member of the pro-democracy movement “Bloc 8406”. He was previously detained from 1977-1978, and again from 1983-1992 for his activism in support of freedom of expression and religion. He was sentenced again in October 2001 to 15 years in prison for his online publication of an essay on human rights violations in Vietnam, before being released under amnesty in February 2005. On 30 March 2007, a People’s Court in Hue sentenced him to “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam” under Article 88-1 (c) of the Criminal Code. On 14 November 2009, he reportedly suffered a stroke in prison. Nguyen Van Ly was granted provisional release so that he could seek medical treatment unavailable in prison on 15 March 2010, but was returned to a labour camp in Ha Nam province on 25 July 2011. In September 2010 the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for his immediate and unconditional release.

According to PEN’s information, Nguyen Huu Cau, 68, is a poet, songwriter, human rights defender and anti-corruption activist. He was arrested at his residence by public security police of Kien Giang province on 9 October 1982 for authoring an “incriminating’’ manuscript of songs and poems that implicated members of the ruling Communist Party in corruption. In his original book, Nguyen Huu Cau noted on the back of the pages allegations of rape and bribery committed by two high level officers. The original manuscript was not used as evidence in the trial, in order to protect the two officers concerned. On 23 May 1983, he was sentenced to death for “sabotage”, which after an appeal, was commuted to life imprisonment.

Nguyen Huu Cau suffers from a heart condition, which is worsening because of the lack of adequate medical attention and the deplorable prison conditions. Nguyen has been placed in harsh solitary confinement on various occasions. He has lost most of his vision and is almost completely deaf. He is currently being held at forced labour camp K2 Z30A Xuan Loc, Dong Nai province, Vietnam. Nguyen Huu Cau was the subject of a 2013 RAN action, see RAN 14/13.