Annual Report: Viet Nam 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Viet Nam 2010

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Head of state Nguyen Minh Triet
Head of government Nguyen Tan Dung
Death penalty status retentionist
Population 88.1 million
Life expectancy 74.3 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 27/20 per 1,000
Adult literacy 90.3 per cent

Severe restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly continued. Repression of dissidents intensified with new arrests of political and human rights activists, most of whom had criticized widespread corruption and government policies relating to China. Bloggers were briefly detained. In most cases, national security concerns were cited as a pretext for arrests and criminal investigations. Peaceful protests by Catholics over land ownership were met with excessive force and arrests by police. Members of ethnic and religious minority groups were threatened and harassed. The National Assembly approved the removal of the death penalty for eight crimes, but 21 capital offences remained. At least 59 death sentences were handed down, and nine executions were reported in the media. No official statistics on the death penalty were made public.

Background

Corruption remained a key public issue. On 30 June, Viet Nam ratified the UN Convention against Corruption. The government rejected key recommendations arising from its Universal Periodic Review. It refused to: amend or repeal national security provisions of the 1999 Penal Code inconsistent with international law; remove other restrictions on dissent, debate, political opposition and the rights to freedom of expression and assembly; and release prisoners of conscience. An increasing demand for land led to the adoption of legislation in October on the provision of compensation, resettlement and work opportunities to residents displaced by development projects.

Freedom of expression - dissidents

Tight controls on freedom of expression continued, including in the print and broadcast media and on the internet. A new wave of arrests began in May, targeting independent lawyers, bloggers and pro democracy activists critical of government policies. The authorities claimed to have uncovered a plot "infringing upon national security" involving 27 people. One of those arrested was sentenced to five and a half years' imprisonment in December, and at least four others were in pre-trial detention at year's end. They were charged under Article 79 of the national security section of the Penal Code for attempting to overthrow the state, which carries the death penalty. They are affiliated to the Democratic Party of Viet Nam, an exile political group calling for multi-party democracy. All had publicly criticized controversial business deals and border policies relating to China.

  • Le Cong Dinh, a prominent lawyer, was arrested on 13 June. The government immediately launched a propaganda campaign in the state-controlled media against him. In August, state television interrupted regular broadcasts to air video clips with his "confessions". He was held incommunicado, with no visits from family members or lawyers allowed. The Ministry of Justice revoked his licence, forbidding him to practise law.

Political prisoners/prisoners of conscience

At least 31 political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience Father Nguyen Van Ly, Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, remained in prison after being sentenced in unfair trials. Others included lawyers, trade unionists and members of independent political and human rights groups. Most of them were convicted of "conducting propaganda" against the state under Article 88 of the Penal Code.