Foreign governments and international rights groups reacted strongly on Friday to a Vietnamese court’s Nov. 30 confirmation of the 10-year prison term imposed in June on jailed blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, calling the rejection of her appeal a violation of the due process guaranteed by international agreements and by Vietnam’s own laws.
Quynh, also known by her blogger handle Mother Mushroom, had blogged about human rights abuses and official corruption for more than a decade.
She had also criticized the government’s response to a 2016 toxic waste spill by the Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group that destroyed the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Vietnamese living in four coastal provinces.
Writing in a statement released Dec. 1, Ambassador Bruno Angelet—head of the European Union’s delegation to Vietnam—said that Quynh’s return to jail “directly contradicts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Vietnam is a party.”
“The freedoms of opinion and expression are enshrined as fundamental rights of every human being, indispensable for individual dignity and fulfillment , as well as [guaranteed by] Article 25 of the Vietnamese Constitution.”
Authorities’ interference with Quynh’s legal team and refusal to allow EU representatives to observe the court’s hearing of Quynh’s appeal raise “questions as to the transparency of the process,” Angelet wrote.
“The European Union expects Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh to be immediately and unconditionally released,” he said.
Barbel Kofner, Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, also called in a statement on Friday for Quynh’s immediate release, calling herself “grieved and indignant” over the decision by the appellate court.
Rights groups also spoke out against Quynh’s return to jail, with Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams saying the blogger’s only crime had been “to speak her mind and fight for human rights.”
“The Vietnamese government should address her concerns, including freedom of speech, a clean environment, and the end of police brutality, instead of punishing her for trying to improve her country.”
The Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights meanwhile strongly protested the rejection of Quynh’s appeal, noting that Quynh’s mother and others who had come to support her at her hearing were assaulted by plainclothes security agents outside the courtroom.
“This courageous woman’s real ‘crime’ is that of identifying Hanoi’s strategy of perpetuating a climate of fear, and she is paying a high price for this today,” the Committee wrote in a Nov. 30 statement.
“Dispelling this fear is the most urgent challenge we face,” the Committee said.
Meanwhile, a group of 38 Vietnamese rights organizations and concerned individuals in and outside the country called on Hanoi on Friday to free jailed blogger Nguyen Van Hoa, who was sentenced on Nov. 27 to a seven-year prison term for his online writings on the Formosa toxic waste spill.
“Hoa’s sentence was not result of due process of law under the Penal Code, but was simply a predetermined sentence,” the group wrote in an open letter published on the web site of the Vietnam Human Rights Defenders.
“What he did was to help uncover Formosa’s crime and support its victims in bringing Formosa to court, which doesn’t violate Vietnamese law,” said the group made up of civil society organizations, officially unrecognized religious groups, and bloggers and activists both in Vietnam and in countries as far away as the United States, Denmark, France, and Slovakia.
Authorities have been targeting activist writers and bloggers in a months-long crackdown in one-party Communist Vietnam, where dissident is not tolerated.
Vietnam currently holds at least 84 prisoners of conscience, the highest number in any country in Southeast Asia, according to rights group Amnesty International.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Richard Finney.