Detained Vietnamese Human Rights Attorney to Receive Award For His Work

The German Association of Judges has selected Nguyen Van Dai as the recipient of its biennial human rights honor.

Nguyen Van Dai displays his face after he was beaten by masked assailants in Nghe An province, Dec. 6, 2015.

Detained human rights attorney and activist Nguyen Van Dai will receive an award from the German Association of Judges on Wednesday, making him the first Vietnamese awarded the honor for his work in human rights, RFA’s Vietnamese Service has learned.

A representative of Nguyen Van Dai will accept the award from the group known in German as Deutscher Richterbund (DRB), which is the largest professional organization of judges and public prosecutors in Germany.

Every other year, the organization bestows a human rights award on a judge, public prosecutor, or other lawyer for outstanding merit in the defense of human rights.

Former prisoner of conscience Pham Van Troi, a democracy activist and member of the Vietnam-based Brotherhood for Democracy, called Dai’s selection “wonderful news.”

Dai and other formerly jailed dissidents created the online group in 2013 to coordinate human rights activities across Vietnam and host forums in Hanoi and Saigon to mark International Human Rights Day.

“I think lawyer Nguyen Van Dai deserves this award,” Troi told RFA’s Vietnamese Service. “This is also a positive sign to promote democratization in Vietnam in the near future.”

Troi went on to say that human rights awards from German and American organizations have had a positive impact on Vietnamese human right activists, who are routinely subjected to harassment, beatings, and detentions by government authorities in the one-party, communist country.

“This can indirectly encourage activists inside Vietnam,” he said.

“In addition, such awards also send strong messages to the government of Vietnam, letting it know that other countries are paying attention to the human right situation in Vietnam,” he said. “The government of Vietnam must reconsider its actions towards democracy activists.”

Dai’s former colleague Le Thi Cong Nhan told RFA that the award is a “huge encouragement” for Dai.

“It recognizes the example of a brave democratic human rights activist in Vietnam,” said the well-known dissident and lawyer who has represented protesters persecuted by the government.

“He has participated in a number of movements in Vietnam and has always been brave,” she said. “I’m glad to hear this news.”

Arrests and convictions

Dai and Nhan were both convicted a decade ago for “misinterpreting government policy on trade unions and laborers in Vietnam,” participating in the democracy movement and the progressive party, teaching courses on human rights, and possessing and disseminating documents propagating democracy and human rights.

Dai received a four-year prison sentence and four years of house arrest, while Nhan received a three-year prison sentence and three years of house arrest.

Authorities took Dai into custody again in December 2015 after he left his home in Hanoi to meet with European Union representatives who were researching human rights issues in Vietnam.

Plainclothes officers stopped him before he arrived at the meeting and took him back to his home where a police camera faces the front door and authorities monitor the movements of everyone who enters and leaves.

They confiscated three computers and USB sticks and later charged Dai with “conducting propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code, a provision that rights groups say is used to imprison peaceful activists.

Dai’s arrest came soon after masked assailants beat him and other activists in what he said at the time was retaliation for his work educating Vietnamese people about human rights.

In December 2016, Vietnamese authorities extended Dai’s time in prison until April of this year, marking the third time the government had added time to his jail term.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.