mistreatment of detained land rights defender Trinh Ba Phuong

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Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed of acts of torture and ill-treatment in detention against Mr. Trinh Ba Phuongas well as on the ongoing conviction and arbitrary detention of Ms. Can Thi Theu and M. Trinh Ba Tu, Mr. Phuong’s mother and brother respectively. All three of them are land rights advocates who have spoken out on land grabbing and its impact on smallholder farmers across the country.

On February 10, 2022, Mr. Trinh Ba KhiemMr Phuong’s father, and himself a land rights activist, posted a video on social media filmed outside Hanoi Police No. 1 Detention Center denouncing Trinh Ba Phuong’s ongoing solitary confinement and the alleged torture and ill-treatment he was held at Hanoi Police No. 1 Detention Center, where he was being held at the time of this urgent appeal.

Police officers arbitrarily arrested Trinh Ba Phuong on June 24, 2020 in Hanoi for “preparing, publishing and broadcasting video clips and writing distorted content that confuses people in order to oppose the state” (Article 117 of the Penal Code Code of Vietnam). On the same day, in Hoa Binh province, police arbitrarily arrested Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Tu on the same charges. Their arrests were linked to their work on social media denouncing the excessive use of force against farmers in the village of Dong Tam, about 25 km southwest of Hanoi, during a deadly police raid in January 2020, in which a farmer and three police officers died.

Trinh Ba Phuong was subjected to torture and ill-treatment throughout the investigation of his case. He was repeatedly beaten by four security guards in sensitive areas of his body. Additionally, because Trinh Ba Phuong chose to exercise his right to remain silent and insisted on giving statements, the security guards threatened to take him to a psychiatric ward, where he was eventually released. detained from March 1 to March 30, 2021. His room was so small that he had trouble drinking a glass of water.

On July 7, 2021, Trinh Ba Phuong was allowed to meet his lawyers for the first time since his arrest. On December 15, 2021, the Hanoi People’s Court sentenced Trinh Ba Phuong to ten years’ imprisonment and five years’ probation under Article 117 of the Penal Code.

Trinh Ba Phuong’s relatives were not allowed to attend the four-hour trial. Police arrested two members of his family, including his father Trinh Ba Khiem and his wife Do Thi Thu, who were standing outside the courthouse demanding access to the building. They were released at the end of the trial. In addition, according to local reports, as part of the preliminary investigation, police officers threatened to arrest Trinh Ba Phuong’s wife if he did not confess to the charges against him.

On May 5, 2021, Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Tu were sentenced by the Hanoi People’s Court to eight years imprisonment each under Article 117 of the Penal Code. Their sentence was upheld on appeal on 24 December 2021. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, they were still being held in Thanh Hoa Prison No. 5 and Nghe An Prison No. 6 respectively, and their conditions of detention remained unknown. Ms. Can Thi Theu and Mr. Trinh Ba Tu have been deprived of their right to see their lawyer for 10 months and, at the time of publication of this urgent appeal, they were not allowed to see their family members or to contact them.

The Observatory expresses its deep concern at the high risk of torture and ill-treatment that Trinh Ba Phuong, Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Tu face while in detention, and urges the Vietnamese authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally.

The Observatory strongly condemns the allegations of acts of torture and ill-treatment suffered by Trinh Ba Phuong during his detention, and urges the authorities to carry out an immediate and thorough investigation into these allegations and to bring those responsible to justice.

The Observatory urges the Vietnamese authorities to stop misusing article 117 of the Penal Code to prosecute human rights defenders and silence dissent in Vietnam, and recalls that several United Nations special procedures have expressed their concern that this article is “overbroad and appears to be aimed at silencing those who seek to exercise their human rights to freely express their opinions and share information with others”.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Vietnamese authorities asking them to:

guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Trinh Ba Phuong, Can Thi Theu, Trinh Ba Tu and all other human rights defenders in Vietnam;

- immediately and unconditionally release Trinh Ba Phuong, Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Tu, as their detention is arbitrary and merely aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

- conduct an immediate, thorough, transparent and independent investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment against Trinh Ba Phuong, so that those responsible are held to account;

- put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Trinh Ba Phuong, Can Thi Theu, Trinh Ba Tu, and all human rights defenders in Vietnam, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals;

- guarantee due process and fair trial rights to Trinh Ba Phuong, Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Tu, including unhindered access to their lawyers and family;

- repeal or significantly amend Article 117 of the Penal Code to bring it into line with Vietnam’s international human rights obligations.

Addresses:

- Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuc, President of Vietnam, Email: [email protected]

- Mr. M. Pham Minh Chinh, Prime Minister of Vietnam, Email: [email protected]

- Mr. Bui Thanh Son, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, Email: [email protected]

- Ms. Pham Thi Thanh Tra, Minister of Interior of Vietnam, Email: [email protected]

- Mr. Le Thanh Long, Minister of Justice of Vietnam, Email: [email protected]; [email protected]

- Mr. Tran Van Son, Minister, Office of Government (OOG), Email: [email protected]

- Permanent Mission of Vietnam to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: [email protected]

- Embassy of Vietnam in Brussels, Belgium, Email: [email protected]

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Vietnam in your respective countries.

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Paris-Geneva, April 20, 2022

Please let us know of any action taken by quoting the code for this appeal in your response.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this program is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union mechanism for human rights defenders set up by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

- Email: [email protected]

- Tel FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18

- Tel OMCT: +41 (0) 22 809 49 39

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