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UN Condemns Vietnam’s Crackdown on Freedom of Expression


U.N. human rights bodies accuse Vietnam of violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by clamping down on freedom of expression and denying critics due process and a fair trial.

The sentences given to three independent journalists earlier this week are the latest example of a further erosion of freedom of expression in Vietnam. The men were found guilty of national security offenses and sentenced to up to 15 years’ imprisonment.

U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says an increasing number of independent journalists, bloggers, online commentators and human rights defenders are being arbitrarily detained based on vaguely defined laws.

Three members of journalists association were sentenced to 11 or 15 years in prison this week.

In the case of the recently sentenced journalists, she says all three were held in lengthy pre-trial detention. She adds there are serious concerns their right to a fair trial was not respected.

“Many of them are kept effectively incommunicado in detention. They do not have access to their families,” said Shamdasani. "They also do not have access to lawyers … In other cases, we do have indication of ill treatment, and we also have indications that there are individuals who have medical needs whose needs are not [being] taken into account.”

Shamdasani also expresses concerns that individuals who try to cooperate with the U.N.’s human rights bodies are subjected to intimidation and reprisals. She says that effectively inhibits them from cooperating with the U.N. and sharing information about human rights issues.

“Now the kinds of reprisals and intimidation that they face can include harassment, travel bans, loss of employment, physical attacks as well as arbitrary arrest, detention and torture…So, it is very important for us to send an alarm on this,” said Shamdasani.

Shamdasani says the U.N. human rights office continues to raise those cases with the Vietnamese government, urging it to stop criminally charging people for expressing their right of freedom of expression.

She adds people should be able to exercise their fundamental rights without fear of reprisals.