Ten human rights organisations have written to U.S. President Barack Obama asking him to raise the issue of the health and prison conditions of prominent blogger and human rights activist Mr Nguyen Van Hai (popularly known as "Dieu Cay") when President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam meets Obama on 25 July 2013. Dieu Cay has been on hunger strike for over 30 days and the organisations fear for his health. The letter follows:
The President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500
The Honourable John Kerry
U.S. Department of State
24 July 2013
Dear Mr President,
The signatory organisations respectfully request that you raise with the Vietnamese Government the arrest and arbitrary detention of Mr Nguyen Van Hai (popularly known as "Dieu Cay"), imprisoned prominent blogger and human rights activist. We understand that President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam will meet with you on 25 July 2013 and we sincerely hope that you will take this opportunity to discuss Mr Nguyen's case with him.
Mr Nguyen is a former member of the Vietnamese army, and one of the pioneer bloggers of Vietnam. He is currently imprisoned for exercising his rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and for his activities as a human rights defender. Prior to his arrest, Mr Nguyen was a co-founder of the independent Free Vietnamese Journalists' Club. On his blog, he wrote about the human rights situation in Vietnam.
In 2009, Human Rights Watch awarded Mr Nguyen the Hellman-Hammett Award "for writers who have suffered persecution as a result of their writings." Amnesty International denoted Mr Nguyen a prisoner of conscience. In April 2012, Civil Rights Defenders named Mr Nguyen as its Human Rights Defender of the Month.
On 24 September 2012, Mr Nguyen was sentenced to 12 years in prison and 5 years probationary detention for "conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam" under Article 88, Section 2, of the Vietnam Penal Code. His appeal was subsequently denied.
From 23 June 2013 until now, Mr Nguyen has been on hunger strike in prison to protest the cruel treatment and solitary confinement he is being subjected to in Prison No. 6 in Nghe An Province, Vietnam. His detention conditions violate international law standards on the core minimum principles for treatment of detainees. Mr Nguyen is also on hunger strike to protest against the cruel treatment of prisoners of conscience by prison guards. The prison where Mr Nguyen is being held has been notoriously known for the guards' cruel treatment of prisoners.
Mr Nguyen's family is gravely concerned for his health and safety; his previous hunger strike, also conducted in protest against inhumane detention conditions, lasted about 28 days and almost killed him due to the adverse effects on his organs. His current health is in a critical state, as he has been on hunger strike for the past 30 days.
Mr Nguyen's arrest and detention are in violation of Vietnam's obligations under international law, in particular Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which impose duties on the government to protect Mr Nguyen's rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. His treatment also contravenes state duties to respect and ensure core minimum principles for treatment of detainees.
Given that Mr Nguyen is in a life-threatening situation, which poses to him an imminent threat of on-going damage of a very grave nature if his detention continues, we hope you will seize the opportunity of President Sang's upcoming visit to request the immediate release of Mr Nguyen, especially on medical grounds.
Thank you for your kind consideration of our request. Please do not hesitate to have your staff contact us should you have any questions or need any additional information about this important case.
PEN American Center
Reporters Without Borders
Full List of Signatories:
Media Defence - Southeast Asia (MDSEA) - HR Dipendra, Director
Access - Jochai Ben-Avie, Policy Director
Action des chrétiens pour l'abolition de la torture (ACAT) - François Picart, Chairman
Réseau Avocats Sans Frontières / ASF Network - Anne Lutun, ASF Network Coordinator
English PEN - Cat Lucas, Writers at Risk Programme Manager
Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) - Nani Jansen, Senior Legal Counsel
PEN American Center - Larry Siems, Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs
PEN International - Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair, PEN International Writers in Prison Committee
Reporters Without Borders - Benjamin Ismaïl, Head of Asia-Pacific Desk
Southeast Asian Press Alliance - Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Executive Director