The Observatory has been informed about the acts of torture and ill-treatment while in detention against Mr. Trinh Ba Phuong, as well as about the sentencing and ongoing arbitrary detention of Ms. Can Thi Theu and Mr. Trinh Ba Tu, Mr. Phuong’s mother and brother, respectively. The three of them are land rights defenders who have been vocal about land grabbing and its impact on small-scale farmers across the country.
On February 10, 2022, Mr. Trinh Ba Khiem, Mr. Phuong’s father and a land rights defender himself, published on social media a video filmed in front of Hanoi Police Detention Centre No.1 denouncing the ongoing solitary confinement of Trinh Ba Phuong and the alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment to which he has been subjected in Hanoi Police Detention Centre No.1, where he was being detained at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal.
Police officers arbitrarily arrested Trinh Ba Phuong on June 24, 2020, in Hanoi on the charge of “preparing, publishing and disseminating video clips and writing distorted contents that sow confusion among the people in order to oppose the state” (Article 117 of the Criminal Code of Vietnam). On the same day, in Hoa Binh Province, the police arbitrarily arrested Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Tu on the same charges. Their arrests were connected to their work denouncing on social media the excessive use of force against farmers of the Dong Tam Village, about 25 km southwest of Hanoi, during a deadly police raid conducted in January 2020, in which a farmer and three policemen died.
Trinh Ba Phuong was subjected to acts of torture and ill treatment throughout the investigation on his case. He was repeatedly hit by four security guards in sensitive areas of his body. Furthermore, because Trinh Ba Phuong chose to exercise his right to remain silent and was adamant about making statements, the security guards threatened to take him to a psychiatric ward, where he was eventually detained from March 1 to March 30, 2021. His room was so small that he had trouble taking a glass of water to drink.
On July 7, 2021, Trinh Ba Phuong was allowed to meet with 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 of imprisonment and five years of probation under Article 117 of the Criminal Code.
Trinh Ba Phuong’s relatives were not allowed to attend the four-hour trial. The police detained two of his family members, including his father Trinh Ba Khiem and his wife Do Thi Thu, who stood in front of the courthouse, requesting to have access to the building. They were released when the trial ended. Furthermore, according to local reports, through the pre-trial investigation, police officers threatened to arrest Trinh Ba Phuong’s wife should he fail to confess to the charges brought against him.
On May 5, 2021, Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Tu were sentenced by the Hanoi People’s Court to eight years of imprisonment each under Article 117 of the Criminal Code. Their sentence was confirmed on appeal on December 24, 2021. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, they remained detained in Thanh Hoa Prison No. 5 and Nghe An Prison No. 6, respectively, and their detention conditions remained unknown. Ms. Can Thi Theu and Mr. Trinh Ba Tu were denied their right to see their lawyer for 10 months, and at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal they were not being allowed to see their family members or contact them.
The Observatory expresses its grave concern over the high risk of torture and ill-treatment Trinh Ba Phuong, Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Tu are facing while in detention, and urges the Vietnamese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them.
The Observatory strongly condemns the alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment Trinh Ba Phuong has been subjected to while in detention, and urges the authorities to carry out an immediate and thorough investigation into these allegations and bring to justice those responsible.
The Observatory urges the Vietnamese authorities to stop misusing Article 117 of the Criminal Code to prosecute human rights defenders and silence dissent in Vietnam, and recalls that several United Nations Special Procedures expressed their concern about the fact that this article is “overly broad and appears to be aimed at silencing those who seek to exercise their human rights to freely express their views and share information with others”.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Vietnam asking them to:
i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Trinh Ba Phuong, Can Thi Theu, Trinh Ba Tu, and of all other human rights defenders in Vietnam;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Trinh Ba Phuong, Can Thi Theu, and Trinh Ba Tu, as their detention is arbitrary and is merely aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;
iii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, transparent and independent investigation into the alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment against Trinh Ba Phuong, in order to hold those responsible accountable;
iv. Put an end to any act 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;
v. Guarantee the rights to due process and fair trial to Trinh Ba Phuong, Can Thi Theu, and Trinh Ba Tu, including unhindered access to their lawyers and family;
vi. Repeal or significantly amend Article 117 of the Criminal Code to bring it into line with Vietnam’s international human rights obligations.
- Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuc, President of Vietnam; Email: email@example.com
- Mr. Mr. Pham Minh Chinh, Prime Minister of Vietnam; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Bui Thanh Son, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam; Email: email@example.com
- Ms. Pham Thi Thanh Tra, Minister of Home Affairs of Vietnam; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Le Thanh Long, Minister of Justice of Vietnam; Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Tran Van Son, Minister, Office of the Government (OOG), Email: email@example.com
- Permanent Mission of Vietnam to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Embassy of Vietnam in Brussels, Belgium; Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Vietnam in your respective countries.