Vietnam: Amnesty International Urges Vietnam to Unconditionally Release Catholic Priest

Press Release
March 16, 2010

Vietnam: Amnesty International Urges Vietnam to Unconditionally Release Catholic Priest

Amnesty International USA Press Release
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Amnesty International Urges Vietnam to Unconditionally Release Catholic Priest

(Washington, DC) A Vietnamese human rights activist and Catholic priest who was temporarily allowed to leave detention on Monday, March 15, should be unconditionally and permanently released, Amnesty International urged today.

Father Nguyen Van Ly, who is serving an eight year jail term for spreading "propaganda" against the state in 2007, was released yesterday for a period of 12 months on humanitarian grounds to receive medical treatment.

Ly, 63, has already served three years in prison. He is one of the founders of the internet-based pro-democracy movement "Bloc 8406" and participated in banned political groups.

"Father Ly should never have been detained in the first place. His release should be unconditional and permanent and he should be allowed to receive proper medical care," said Amnesty International’s Vietnam researcher Brittis Edman. "This small positive step is happening against the backdrop of a deteriorating human rights situation, with 16 dissidents imprisoned in the last six months alone, and dozens more currently detained for criticism of government policies."

Nguyen Van Ly's health has rapidly deteriorated in prison. He suffers from partial paralysis following a stroke in November last year and doctors have also discovered a brain tumor.

He will remain under surveillance during the temporary release period while he lives at a house for retired priests in the diocese of the Archbishop of Hue, in central Vietnam, where he has previously stayed.

The peaceful pro-democracy activist has been jailed three times since the 1970s. Amnesty International first adopted Father Ly as a prisoner of conscience in December 1983, and continued to work for his release following subsequent arrests.

During his most recent imprisonment, Amnesty International activists in the United States joined in efforts led by the NGO, Freedom Now, which resulted in the recruitment of 37 U.S. Senators in July 2009 to send a joint letter to Vietnam's president calling for Father Ly's release. In November and December 2009, Amnesty International issued an urgent action regarding Father Ly's deteriorating health.

Amnesty International USA chapters in Palo Alto, California and Princeton, New Jersey continued campaigning for Father Ly throughout his imprisonment. Amnesty International continues to urge the government of Vietnam to amend or repeal national security provisions of the Penal Code which are used to silence and detain activists. These provisions are in direct breach of international treaties ratified by Vietnam. The authorities must allow peaceful dissent, debate, freedom of speech and assembly consistent with Vietnam’s obligations under international law, and release all prisoners of conscience.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.