This statement was originally published on pen-international.org on 22 June 2017.
PEN International calls on the Vietnamese authorities to drop all charges against blogger and government critic Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known by her pen name Me Nam ('Mother Mushroom'), ahead of her trial, which is expected to take place on 29 June 2017. Me Nam has been held in incommunicado detention since her arrest in October 2016, on charges of "conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam" under Article 88 of the Penal Code. If convicted, she could face up to 20 years in prison. PEN International believes that Me Nam is being targeted for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression and calls for her immediate and unconditional release.
Please send appeals:
- Calling on the Vietnamese authorities to drop the charges against blogger and human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, and release her immediately and unconditionally;
- Ensuring that, pending her release, she is granted access to her family and a lawyer of her choice immediately;
- Repeal Article 88, as well as other national security provisions that criminalise dissent in breach international human rights law, such as Articles 79 ("activities aiming to overthrow the people's administration") and 258 ("abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the rights and interests of individuals") of the Penal Code.
- Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all other writers and activists imprisoned or detained for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression in accordance with Article 19 of the ICCPR to which Vietnam is state party.
His Excellency Tran Dai Quang
President of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
Hung Vuong street
Ba Dinh district
Mr Nguyen Xuan Phuc
1 Hoang Hoa Tham street
ba Dinh district
Fax: +84 80 44130/ +84 80 44940
Mr Pham Binh Minh
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1 Ton That Dam street
Ba Dinh district
Fax: +844 3823 1872
Email: [email protected]
Please ask your country's diplomatic representatives in Viet Nam to intervene in the case. Contact information for some Vietnamese embassies in the world.
***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 29 June 2017.***
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, aged 37, popularly known by her pen name Me Nam (Mother Mushroom), is known for her online writings in which she has shared her opinions on social, economic, political, environmental and human rights issues via social media. In 2013, she co-founded the Vietnamese Bloggers Network, banned in Viet Nam. Me Nam has also organised and participated in advocacy around government transparency, state accountability and environmental protection. Me Nam has faced consistent harassment at the hands of the Vietnamese authorities as a result of her work since 2009; such harassment has included detentions (see RAN 49/09), travel bans, physical assaults and threats. She is the recipient of the 2010 Hellman/Hammett Award, the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year award and the 2017 International Woman of Courage Award, awarded by the U.S. State Department.
On 10 October 2016, Me Nam was arrested while visiting an imprisoned political activist, Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy, at the Khanh Hoa province public security camp where she was reportedly forced into a car and driven to her home. Her home was reportedly searched and electrical equipment, including her computer and mobile telephone, confiscated. She was later transferred to Khanh Hoa Provincial Police Detention Centre.
According to a police notice reported in a submission quoted by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, Me Nam was charged with "conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam" under Article 88 of the Penal Code as from 2012 to the time of her arrest she had used social media to "regularly write, upload and share articles and video content that distort the line and policies of the Party and State laws, denigrate individuals, and affect the reputation of agencies and organisations." The notice made specific reference to Me Nam being responsible for a document entitled, Stop police killing civilians - SKC, a report thought to have been found at her home and which contained information on 31 individuals who had been found dead in police custody in Viet Nam. Four hundred Facebook articles are being used in evidence against her. She has been held incommunicado without access to a lawyer since her arrest.
In a 14 October 2016 statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said: "Article 88 effectively makes it a crime for any Vietnamese citizen to enjoy the fundamental freedom to express an opinion, to discuss or to question the Government and its policies. The overly broad, ill-defined scope of this law makes it all too easy to quash any kind of dissenting views and to arbitrarily detain individuals who dare to criticise Government policies."
In March 2017, five UN Special Rapporteurs made a joint statement expressing "fear for her physical and psychological integrity, and denounce the violations of her fundamental right to due process, in particular her being detained incommunicado, the denial of her right to legal counsel and the banning of visits from her family."
Me Nam's mother was informed on 4 June 2017 that her daughter's detention in Khanh Hoa province would be extended by two months and 15 days, according to Radio Free Asia. Me Nam's family have reportedly been subjected to surveillance since her arrest.
In its opinion adopted during its 78th session on 30 May 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) found that "article 88 of Viet Nam's Penal Code is so vague and overly broad that it could result in penalties being imposed on persons who have merely exercised their legitimate rights to freedom of opinion and expression." Moreover, it concluded that Me Nam's arrest and subsequent detention was intended to restrict her activities as a human rights defender, and that her detention violates her rights under articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as well as her right to fair trial under 9, 10 and 11, and 9 and 14, of the UDHR and ICCPR respectively. During the same session, the UNWGAD also ruled that prominent lawyer, human rights defender and blogger, Nguyen Van Dai, who has been detained without formal charges since December 2015, is also being arbitrarily detained.
Me Nam's trial is expected to take place at the Khanh Hoa province People's Court on 29 June 2017.