Vietnamese human rights lawyers Le Thi Cong Nhan and Nguyen Van Dai were arrested on March 6, 2007 for “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” and sentenced to four and five years’ imprisonment respectively for their activism and education efforts. Although the sentences have since each been reduced by one year, the two will be subject to several more years’ house arrest upon their release. Meanwhile, the human rights situation remains grave in Vietnam, which has silenced activists through surveillance, restrictions on movement, arbitrary detention and imprisonment.
The two lawyers together spoke through Radio Free Asia and Voice of America to publicize the deficiency of human rights in their country. Nguyen Van Dai has represented some dissidents in court and founded the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam, which seeks to document abuses. Le Thi Cong Nhan joined this committee and was also the spokeswoman of the Vietnam Progression Party, a pro-democracy group formed in 2006. They have both been supporters of Bloc 8406, an online petition for democracy and freedom in Vietnam.
Article 88 of the Penal Code, under which Le Thi Cong Nhan and Nguyen Van Dai were charged, has been criticized as unconstitutional and in violation of international human rights covenants. The two lawyers are considered prisoners of conscience, as they were arrested only for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. Activists will campaign for their unconditional release during Amnesty International’s Global Write-a-thon from December 5-13. Send a letter demanding justice for Le Thi Cong Nhan and Nguyen Van Dai, as well as other human rights advocates and peaceful dissidents whose voices have been stifled and basic civil liberties breached by the republic of Vietnam.