Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement Monday urging American politicians to use upcoming talks with Vietnam to lobby for the freedom of detained human rights activists.
HRW believes that “at least 145 people” are currently being illegally detained in Vietnam. An estimated 31 people were arrested for “expressing opinions online contrary to the government’s positions,” and 26 were arrested for “politically motivated charges.”
Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for HRW, called on the United States Government to “press Vietnam to take demonstrable actions to improve rights, starting with the immediate and unconditional release of rights activists.” Robertson asserts that detainees were arrested on “fabricated charges” and subjected to “abused interrogations in detention for months without legal counsel.”
One detainee is Pham Doan Trang, a journalist, and free press activist. Doan Trang was arrested on October 7, 2020, and met with one of her lawyers for the first time more than a year later, on October 19, 2021. Doan Trang is charged under an anti-state propaganda law, but HRW holds, “it is clear that Pham Doan Trang is being persecuted for her long-standing work as an independent journalist, book published, and human rights defender.”
Under Vietnam’s criminal code, those arrested for national security crimes are not entitled to a defense until the prosecution completes its investigation. Robertson believes that US representatives should “urge” Vietnamese officials to repeal such provisions because it “undermines due process and facilitates abuse of detainees.”
The twenty-fifth United States-Vietnam human rights dialogue is set for November 9. 2021.