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Vietnam: Writer, journalist and independent editor Pham Doan Trang arrested

Friday 13 November 2020 - 9:09am

Pham Doan Trang



As a reminder, in an URGENT ALERT issued for several months, the Committee for the Defence of Persecuted and Imprisoned Writers of the Suisse Romand PEN Centre wrote: «We strongly object to the fact that Pham Doan Trang, independent writer and editor, 42, hunted like a criminal, refusing exile, has been obliged to live in secret».

Today, 6 October 2020, brutally imprisoned, Pham Doan Trang will be charged under article 117 of the Penal code for "propaganda against the socialist state". If found guilty, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Pham Doan Trang was a co-founder and the editor of the dissident review Luat Khoa Tap Chi (Law Journal) and the independent news website The Vietnamese. She was also known as the author and a co-editor of the Liberal Publishing House banned by the Communist authorities.

The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam (SRV) is not meeting the international commitments made during its 2019 Universal Periodic Review. Authorities continue to criminalize writers, journalists, translators, environment and human rights defenders who dared exercise their right to freedom of expression. Censorship is accompanied by intimidation, harassment, attacks, threats, enforced disappearances and kidnappings even abroad. In forced labor camps, (men and women) prisoners of opinion and conscience are mistreated, malnourished, deprived of medical care and attacked by common law internees. Some have been tortured and frequently placed in disciplinary confinement. Several hunger strikes have been launched against the inhumane conditions of detention.

We deplore, with sadness and indignation, the deaths in prison, including the two most recent cases: Dao Quang Thuc, 60, teacher and human rights defender, arrested in 2017, sentenced in 2018 to 13 years in prison, died on 10 December 2019 « as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage and pulmonary infection » . Doan Dinh Nam, 68, Buddhist scholar and human rights defender, arrested in 2012 and sentenced in 2013 to 16 years in prison, died on 5 October 2019 « of renal failure » . Why these unjust deaths ? Dao Quang Thuc et Doan Dinh Nam should never have spent one day in prison !

We condemn the use of punitive psychiatry: Judged as mentally ill, the dissidents are locked up in psychiatric hospitals and subjected to forced administration of drugs. Two most known cases : Nguyên Trung Linh, 53, translator and journalist, arrested on 27 May 2018 for «Propaganda against the State» and Lê Anh Hung, 47, translator and journalist, arrested on 5 July 2018 for «Abuse of democratic freedoms», and who refusing medical treatment against his will and without his family's consent, has been severely beaten and tied to his bed ever since.

We are shocked by the lack of humanity and tolerance of the SRV and at its denial of the right to freedom of expression. In March 2020, in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on governments to “release everyone detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views ”. The SRV ignores this request. Instead of releasing, the regime has jailed new convicts after unfair trials. The victims of repression have steadily increased since the amendment of the Penal Code and the entry into force of the new law on cyber security.*

We are deeply concerned about the hundreds of arbitrary arrests and unfair sentences handed down to heavy prison terms in recent years. We protest against the deprivation of liberty imposed on the poet and writer Trân Duc Thach among other writers and independent media professionals : - Trân Duc Thach, who has received the Human Rights Watch/Hellman Hammet Award in 2010, 69 years old, veteran of the North Vietnamese Army, novelist and poet, member (excluded) of the Association of Writers of Nghê An province. Prolific author, witness to the massacres of civilians in April 1975, he published one of his most widely read memoirs ‘’ Hô Chôn Nguoi Am Anh ’(The Haunting Mass Grave), without submitting it to censorship. Sentenced in 2008 to 3 years in prison and 3 years in probation for « Propaganda against the State». Mistreated in prison, he suffers from multiple ailments and his health is seriously impaired. Since his release from prison, Trân Duc Thach continues to write on social networks. On 23 April 2020, he was once again arrested and charged with «Activities against the State». He faces a sentence of 12 to 20 years in prison, life imprisonment or death.

In light of the above, the Committee for the Defence of Persecuted and Imprisoned Writers of Suisse Romand PEN Centre urges the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam (SRV) to:

  • Release immediately and unconditionally Pham Doan Trang, Trân Duc Thach, Nguyên Trung Linh, Lê Anh Hung and all writers, editors, translators and independent media professionals and human rights defenders currently in prison, in preventive or probationary detention for having peacefully exercised their right to freedom of expression;
  • End the policy of releasing prisoners of conscience into enforced exile abroad;
  • Cease all aggression, harassment, threat of arbitrary arrest or detention against persons expressing dissenting opinions;
  • Improve the conditions of detention in prisons and forced labor camps; prohibit all forms of torture and ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement, and immediately and impartially investigate all reported cases, bringing perpetrators to justice; ensure that every detainee receives all the necessary medical care;
  • Guarantee the right to a fair trial with independent judges and lawyers;
  • Facilitate family visits to prisoners by ensuring that all prisoners are held in facilities closer to their family's place of residence;
  • Repeal the law on cyber security and revise or remove the provisions of the 2015 Criminal Code relating to "national security", in particular articles 109, 110, 115, 116, 117, 121 and 331; establish a moratorium on the death penalty before its abolition;
  • Suppress censorship and restrictions on freedom of expression and opinion, freedom to create and publish, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and recognize the right to be informed by all means, in accordance with Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the ICCPR.



Nguyên Hoàng Bao Viêt, President of Suisse Romand PEN Centre. Delegate of the Committee for the Defence of Persecuted and Imprisoned Writers of Suisse Romand PEN Centre.