Rights group Amnesty International on Friday described Vietnamese prison authorities’ treatment of jailed blogger Nguyen Van Hoa as “torture,” calling him a prisoner of conscience and urging his immediate release.
Hoa, who had blogged for RFA’s Vietnamese Service and is now serving a seven-year sentence in Vietnam’s An Diem Prison, is currently being held in solitary confinement after being beaten and choked by prison guards earlier this month.
“Everyone has the right to bodily integrity,” Amnesty International Vietnam and Cambodia campaigns officer Nguyen Truong Son told RFA in an email on Friday. “No one has the right to torture anyone.”
“Moreover, Vietnam is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, and the torture of Nguyen Van Hoa at An Diem Prison is therefore a violation of Vietnamese law and of international conventions,” Son said.
Calling Hoa a prisoner of conscience who should never have been arrested in the first place, Son demanded the jailed blogger’s “immediate and unconditional” release and an official investigation into his treatment in custody.
“The arrest and imprisonment of Hoa only reveals the authoritarian nature of Vietnam’s government to the world,” he said.
Hoa, who had blogged and produced videos for RFA, was handed a seven-year jail term on Nov. 27, 2017 by a court in Vietnam’s Nghe An province after using a drone to film protests outside a Taiwan-owned steel plant, whose spill of toxic waste the year before had left fishermen and tourism workers jobless in four coastal provinces.
Arrested on Jan. 11, 2017 for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state” under Article 258 of the Penal Code, Hoa was later charged with “conducting propaganda against the state,” a more serious charge, under Article 88.
Other prisoners at An Diem have now gone on hunger strike to demand Hoa’s release from solitary confinement, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
Speaking on May 23 to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, Hoang Nguyen—the younger brother of another An Diem prisoner Hoang Binh—said that his brother, political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen, and several others held at An Diem have refused to eat for almost two weeks.
“According to prison rules, when someone is placed in solitary confinement, the prison authorities must notify that person’s cellmates, but in this case they didn’t do that,” Nguyen said.
“And that led them to go on hunger strike to protest and try to get Nguyen Van Hoa released,” he said.
“We understand that hunger strikes are the last resort for prisoners of conscience when facing abuse in prison,” Son said in his May 24 email.
“We sympathize and join everyone in asking An Diem Prison to immediately cease its inhumane and inhuman treatment of Nguyen Van Hoa.”
Vietnam now holds an estimated 128 prisoners of conscience, according to a May 13, 2019 report by rights group Amnesty International.
“The Vietnamese authorities portray individuals who are peacefully exercising their human rights as criminals,” Amnesty International (AI) said in its report, Prisoners of Conscience in Vietnam.
“However, it is the government that flagrantly contravenes international human rights law and its own constitution,” AI said.
Nguyen Kim Binh of Vietnam Human Rights Network said in December that the one-party communist state is currently detaining more than 200 political prisoners.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Channhu Hoang. Written in English by Richard Finney.