• Press Release

Viet Nam: End wave of brutal attacks against human rights defenders

December 9, 2015

The Vietnamese authorities must put an end to a wave of vicious and violent attacks on human rights defenders and end the persistent impunity by ensuring those responsible are brought to justice, Amnesty International said.

In the latest attack on Sunday 6 December, four activists – including prominent human rights lawyer and former prisoner of conscience Nguyễn Vãn Ðài – were abducted and beaten by a group of 20 men in plainclothes. They were returning from a public forum on constitutional rights in Nghệ An province, which the authorities had tried to shut down.

“Brutal attacks on human rights defenders have become routine in Viet Nam yet no steps have been taken to bring those responsible to justice. This wave of violence must end immediately,” said John Coughlan, Amnesty International’s Viet Nam Researcher.

“Peaceful activists in Viet Nam are working under harsh conditions and suffer impermissible restrictions on their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. It is outrageous that they have to risk both their health and liberty simply for speaking up for human rights.”

The four activists – Nguyễn Vãn Ðài, Trần Quang Trung, Vũ Vãn Minh and a fourth, unnamed man – were intercepted when travelling home to Ha Noi by taxi. They were pulled out of a taxi along with the driver, and assaulted with wooden clubs. The plainclothes men put Nguyễn Vãn Ðài in the back of a van where he was repeatedly punched and bludgeoned with wooden sticks before being dumped on Cua Lo beach, some 20 kms from Vinh city. The other men were beaten on the side of the road, Trần Quang Trung was hit with a wooden club until the club broke.

Nguyễn Vãn Ðài received injuries to his face and eye, and was robbed of his wallet, mobile phone and jacket, while Trần Quang Trung suffered an injury to his ankle.

Since being released from prison in March 2011 after serving four years on trumped up charges of conducting propaganda against the state, Nguyễn Vãn Ðài has been the victim of intimidation and several attacks.

In May 2014, he sustained head injuries after being assaulted by six men in plainclothes. In January this year, two unidentified men broke into his home, and threatened to assault Ðài and burn his home down.

A pattern of violence

This is the latest in a series of attacks and violence against human rights defenders in Viet Nam, which have intensified over the past 18 months. Amnesty International is aware of dozens of such attacks, most of which are not reported by the state controlled media.

On 3 November, two lawyers Trần Thu Nam and Lê Vãn Luân were beaten by masked men as they left the family home of Do Dang Du, a 17-year-old who died in custody in Hà Nội in October. The lawyers had been providing legal advice to the young man’s family. While the authorities announced an investigation into the attack, following complaints by the victims, no arrests have been made.

On 22 November, labour activists and former prisoners of conscience, Ðỗ Thị Minh Hạnh and Trýõng Minh Ðức, were beaten by men in plainclothes before being detained by uniformed police in Long Bình, Ðồng Nai province. The pair had travelled to Long Bình to provide advice on the case of 2,000 factory workers who had been sacked by their South Korean employers.

No one has been held responsible for any of these attacks.

Independent investigative body

Amnesty International is calling on the Vietnamese authorities to take immediate steps to end the pattern of attacks and violence and to hold those responsible to account.

Viet Nam must establish an independent and impartial body to investigate these attacks and prosecute those responsible, regardless of their status or official capacity.

“The only way to stop this cycle of attacks and violence is to put an end to the impunity of perpetrators, and send a clear signal that beatings of human rights defenders are unacceptable,” said John Coughlan.