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UN Condemns Vietnam's Crackdown on Human Rights Defenders

FILE - Tran Thi Nga, right, holds her son and an anti-China poster as she takes part in a rally in Hanoi, July 8, 2012.

U.N. officials have voiced their dismay at Vietnam's intensifying campaign against those who question or criticize government policy. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the severity of sentences handed down to dissenters after so-called show trials.

In the most recent incident, the U.N. reports that on July 25, well-known activist Tran Thi Nga was sentenced to nine years' imprisonment and five years' house arrest for spreading so-called anti-state propaganda.

Rights Office spokeswoman Liz Throssell says Tran Thi Nga's sentence comes less than one month after another prominent blogger, Mother Mushroom, was jailed for 10 years. Throssell says both bloggers were sentenced after flawed judicial proceedings.

"Over the last six months, at least seven other human rights defenders have been arrested and faced prosecution, several dozen are currently detained, and two have been deported or sent into exile abroad," Throssell said. "Many others have been intimidated, harassed and brutally beaten. Human rights defenders should never be treated as criminals who are a threat to national security."

Throssell tells VOA the high commissioner and international human rights groups all denounce Article 88 of Vietnam's penal code, under which the human rights defenders were judged.

"They all consider these provisions as too vague and in breach of international human rights law and, therefore, amounting to criminalization of the exercise of fundamental rights, such as the freedom of expression," she said.

Throssell says the high commissioner has expressed his concerns to the Vietnamese authorities, but received no response.