What You Need to Know About Vietnam’s Human Rights Record

President Truong Tan Sang is only the second Vietnamese president invited to the White House since the normalization of ties between the former war foes (Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

President Truong Tan Sang is only the second Vietnamese president invited to the White House since the normalization of ties between the former war foes (Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam visited the United States this week to meet with President Obama. At lunch Wednesday with Secretary of State John Kerry, he expressed his desire that Hanoi and Washington deepen their economic and security ties.

The United States and Vietnam have come a long way since the end of the Vietnam War, but President Sang should realize that absent significant progress on human rights, his hopes for building a closer relationship with Washington may be dashed. Popular and congressional support in the United States for forging a strategic partnership with Vietnam will hinge, in large measure, on whether the Vietnamese government demonstrates a deeper commitment to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and justice.


10 Absurd and Unjust Arrests of 2012

Check out our list of 10 absurd arrests and sentences of the year. You might be surprised to learn what can get you thrown in jail in a few places around the world, and how harsh the sentences are once you’re there.

belarus teddy bears fly over minsk

Bears being dropped. Photo via Studio Total

1. Posting photos of teddy bears.

Anton Suryapin of Belarus spent more than a month in detention after posting photos of teddy bears being dropped from an airplane. The bears were part of a stunt by a Swedish advertising company calling for freedom of expression in Belarus. Anton is charged of “organizing illegal migration” simply because he was the first upload photos of the teddy bears, and still faces a prison sentence of up to seven years.

2. Tweeting.

After allegedly “publicly insulting the King” on Twitter, a Bahraini man had his six-month prison sentence upheld on appeal, while three others are serving four-month prison sentences. Article 214 of Bahrain’s penal code makes it a crime to offend the King.

3. Opposing the death penalty.


5 Countries Where Your Online Comments Could Land You in Jail

free jabbar savalan facebook page

When you log onto Facebook, you might expect to hear from long-lost friends or to see pictures from the latest family reunion. Maybe you follow Amnesty on Facebook or Twitter, read and comment on this blog, or keep a blog yourself.

But when you log off at the end of the day, you probably don’t expect the police to come knocking on your door. For people in some countries, that’s exactly what can happen. A 2011 study by Freedom House examining 37 countries found that 23 of them had arrested a blogger or internet user for their online posts. These encroachments on internet freedom – regardless of laws – come at a time of explosive growth in the number of internet users worldwide. Governments are clearly terrified because they know that information is power.


Ailing Father Ly Arrested Again

Dissident priest Father Nguyen Van Ly was paroled for health issues last year © Private

By Claudia Vandermade, Southeast Asia Cogroup Chair.

Father Nguyen Van Ly, a 64-year-old Catholic priest in central Viet Nam, has spent some 17 years in prison – amid harsh conditions and often in solitary confinement – for calling on Vietnamese authorities to respect freedom of expression and other human rights.  Now he’s back behind bars.

On July 25, the ailing Father Ly was returned to prison by ambulance.  Authorities claim that he distributed documents critical of government policies and incited demonstrations.   Father Ly is one of dozens of activists serving long jail terms for their peaceful criticism of the Vietnamese authorities.


Write-a-Thon Series: Le Thi Cong Nhan and Nguyen Van Dai

This posting is part of our Write-a-Thon Cases Series. For more information visit www.amnestyusa.org/writeathon/

©AI        Le Thi Cong Nhan

©AI Le Thi Cong Nhan

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.

©AI                  Nguyen Van Dai

©AI Nguyen Van Dai

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.