Vietnam holds political prisoner in solitary confinement for 18 months

Rules say inmates who break prison rules can only be held in isolation for 10 days.
By RFA Vietnamese
2024.03.13
Vietnam holds political prisoner in solitary confinement for 18 months Activist Nguyen Duc Hung at his trial in July 2022.
Ha Tinh Police

Vietnam’s Nam Ha Prison has been holding political prisoner Nguyen Duc Hung in a solitary cell for 18 months, his family told Radio Free Asia this week.

The law says the disciplinary period for violating a prison’s rules is only 10 days.

The 33-year-old campaigned against the Formosa Plastics Group steel factory, which polluted the water supply by discharging waste in 2016.

He was arrested in 2022 on charges of “conducting anti-state propaganda” and was sentenced to five years and six months in prison in a trial without a lawyer.

Hung was sent to serve his sentence at Nam Ha Prison in the province of the same name and only allowed limited family visits.

Last August, his father Nguyen Sen was refused a prison visit and told Hung was being disciplined for receiving noodles from a fellow political prisoner.

After RFA’s Vietnamese service wrote about the incident in December, Hung’s father was allowed to visit.

Last month, Sen returned to the prison, and discovered that his son was still being held in solitary confinement as punishment for the 2022 incident.  

He said his son was weak and pale due to being confined in his cell for a long time. Hung also suffers from stomach problems and headaches due to a childhood accident, he said.

Hung is shortsighted but the prison won’t allow him to use his metal-framed spectacles. Although the family sent plastic-framed glasses, the prison said they didn’t receive them, making it difficult for Hung to see.

Hung told his father that the family could only visit him once every two months in accordance with regulations for disciplined prisoners. 

Even though Sen registered his phone number with prison authorities he never received a call from his son even though regulations allow inmates to call their family for 10 minutes a month.

Hung told his family to help him hire two lawyers, but he did not specify what they were for, only saying he would present evidence to them when at the prison. It is unclear whether Hung will be able to meet with a lawyer because, according to regulations, only relatives can meet with prisoners.

RFA’s calls to Nam Ha Prison went unanswered.

According to Article 43 of the Law on Execution of Criminal Judgments (2015), prisoners who violate detention facility rules can be reprimanded, warned or detained in a disciplinary cell for up to 10 days. While held in solitary, prisoners are not allowed to meet their relatives.

“Vietnam’s rights-abusing practices include trying to censor, or failing that, arrest and imprison anyone who dares criticize the government, and that’s precisely what the authorities are doing to Nguyen Duc Hung,” Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson told RFA.

“But it is unusually cruel for them to hold him in virtually indefinite solitary confinement.

“The government should recognize that Nguyen Duc Hung did nothing wrong in the first place because exercising freedom of expression should not be considered a crime, and they should release him immediately and unconditionally,” he said.

Nguyen Viet Dung, who was held in solitary confinement for more than two years at Nam Ha Prison and has now fled the country, said that each individual disciplinary sentence has a duration of three months, however, the prison can consecutively apply disciplinary sentences to a prisoner.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang. 

POST A COMMENT

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.

COMMENTS

Penelope Faulkner
Mar 13, 2024 05:22 AM

The Law on the Execution of Criminal Judgements is of 2019, not 2015 as mentioned. Which makes it all the more serious that it is not respected ! Many thanks for RFA's excellent work on prisoners of conscience.