By Huong Nguyen, AIUSA Country Specialist on Viet Nam
How did you spend your last birthday? Did you do something fun to celebrate?
On November 29, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, a Vietnamese prisoner of conscience, had to spend his 5th consecutive birthday in prison.
Thuc was sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment followed by five years’ house arrest on 20 January 2010 for blogging about political and economic issues in Viet Nam.
Thuc was arrested on 24 May 2009. On 20 January 2010, along with three others, he was tried at Ho Chi Minh City People’s court. Tran Huynh Duy Thuc’s 16-year sentence prison sentence and five year term of house arrest on release were upheld on appeal on 11 May 2010.
In early July 2013, Thuc was transferred to Xuan Moc prison, Ba Ria – Vung Tau province along with four other dissident prisoners. It is not known why he was moved. His family only found out when they went to visit him at the detention facility where he was previously held. He is currently in a cell on his own in a section of the prison for political prisoners. In May 2013, Thuc was held for 10 days in solitary confinement in a small, dark and dirty cell.
Thuc’s family can visit him every month to supply food, medicines and other basic necessities. But the communication is often difficult as prison guards keep interrupting their conversations and cutting short the time allowed for each visit. Various food supplies provided by the family cannot be preserved long enough for use in the month due to the damage done to the packages when the guards check them. Thuc has been struggling with the jailers to make sure they ensure their compliance with the prison’s regulations and respect his rights. His family has noticed some recent improvement in this regard.
Tran Huynh Duy Thuc was a successful entrepreneur. His arrest and imprisonment has had a negative impact on Thuc’s family. Thuc’s IT company was forced to go bankrupt and close down after Thuc was arbitrarily detained and convicted. His family, who depended on the operation of Thuc’s company to survive had to face numerous difficulties.
However, Thuc’s family has never stopped fighting for his release. They have sent
petitions to the Vietnamese authorities asking for his retrial. Up to now, 4 petitions have
been lodged, but his family has not received an appropriate response to reconsider his
The family has also taken up his case to various international organizations to put pressure on the Vietnamese authorities to free Thuc. In August 2012, the UN Working
Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted Opinion No 27/2012 concerning Thuc and
his three co-defendants, concluding that their detention was arbitrary and requested the
government of Viet Nam to take steps to remedy the situation in accordance with the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights. Thuc’s family continues to appeal for his case within the domestic court
system. His family also plans to take up the case to the International Court of Justice as
Viet Nam has recently signed the United Nations Convention against Torture. Indeed, at
the trial, Thuc declared that he had been tortured during detention and denied all of the
Thuc’s 77 years old father has travelled the world to seek justice for his son – from
reaching out to international organizations such as Amnesty International, to meeting
with U.S. representatives and appearing at the 2014 Universal Periodic Review to lobby
for his case.
Thuc’s cause for human rights has now become the inspiration for his whole family.
As Thuc’s father shared with us, through the struggle for Thuc’s freedom , they
want to show to the world that there is still a lot to do for democracy and human
rights to be respected in Viet Nam. It is not only about Thuc, but also about “Justice
and Righteousness for all Vietnamese people,” Thuc’s father said.
At the occasion of Thuc’s birthday, the 5th one he has spent in jail, his father wanted to send a message to the world: “Please take any necessary measures with regard to Viet Nam to call for the respect of what has been agreed and accepted when the Vietnamese government signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture recently. At present, in Viet Nam there are still many cases of unjust and wrong convictions, in which human rights were not guaranteed. So we look forward to the rehearing of Thuc’s case again in order to return justice to him . That is the essential and minimal thing to carry out to ensure that Vietnamese law is in conformity with the International law of human rights.”
To support Thuc and fight for human rights in Viet Nam, take action here.