Stanford Law School’s Allen Weiner Reports to United Nations on Ongoing Human Rights Violations by Vietnamese Government

UN Working Group Rules Favorably on Petition Filed by SLS Allen Weiner, Condemns Treatment of 16 Vietnamese Social and Political Activists
The original petitioners: Vietnamese activists who have been detained

STANFORD, Calif., October 21, 2014—Allen Weiner, director of the Stanford Program in International and Comparative Law at Stanford Law School, today filed an update concerning the petition initially submitted to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) in Geneva in July 2012 contesting the illegal arrest and ongoing detention of 16 Vietnamese social and political activists.

The update reports on the continuing failure of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to comply with the opinion rendered by the UNWGAD in August 2013, which found that the deprivation of liberty of these activists contravened Vietnam’s international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Working Group called upon the Vietnam government to immediately release the detainees and provide them with adequate reparation.

The update notes that despite the unambiguous nature of the UNWGAD’s August 2013 opinion, the Vietnamese government is still violating its clear legal obligations under international law. Eleven of the activists continue to be arbitrarily detained by the Vietnamese government in violation of its international human rights obligations.

In addition, although five of the activists have completed their prison sentences, they still face ongoing unlawful restrictions on their liberty through the exercise by the Vietnamese government of “administrative detention,” a form of restriction on their freedom of movement which is severely curtailing their livelihood and which is also in violation of Vietnam’s international obligations.

In addition, the update reports on the Vietnamese government’s malicious mistreatment of persons covered by the UNGWAD’s decision. The update notes with particular concern the cruel and degrading treatment of Francis Dang Xuan Dieu, a blogger and member of the nonviolent pro-democracy party Viet Tan.

 Human rights violations

According to a former prison inmate, Dieu has been held in solitary confinement and faced physical assault for maintaining his innocence and refusing to wear a prisoner uniform. Prison authorities have reportedly withheld food and clean water and forced Dieu to remain in a tiny cell without ventilation or even basic sanitation.

The mistreatment of Dieu is a clear violation of Article 19(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides: “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.” It is also inconsistent withArticle 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

This conduct is also flatly inconsistent with the representations made by the Vietnamese government upon its signing on November 7, 2013, of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Vietnamese ambassador to the United Nations at that time asserted that, by signing the convention, Vietnam was “reaffirm[ing] its unwavering commitment to prevent all acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of persons and to better protect and promote fundamental human rights.”

Given the continuing mistreatment of those engaged in nonviolent forms of political and social activism in Vietnam and the Vietnamese government’s ongoing unlawful detention of such activists, the update urges the UNWGAD to take urgent action on behalf of Francis Dang Xuan Dieu and the other petitioners, such as requesting a country visit to Vietnam, including a prison visit with Dieu; submitting an inquiry to the Vietnamese government regarding the current treatment and condition of Dieu; and reiterating its previous opinion and renewing its request for the unconditional release of all 16 social and political activists covered by the Working Group’s August 2013 opinion.

Violation of international law

“In view of the U.N. Working Group’s opinion in this case, there can be no reasonable question about whether Vietnam’s detention of these social and political activists is permissible under international law. It is not, but is simply governmental repression against those seeking to exercise civil and political rights that are protected under international law,” said Allen Weiner, senior lecturer at Stanford Law School and counsel for the petitioners.

“The refusal of the Vietnamese government to release these petitioners, notwithstanding the clear decision of the U.N. Working Group, reflects a deep disregard for international law and raises profound questions about the role Vietnam wishes to play in the international community,” he noted. “Above all, it is a deep injustice to these activists, who seek only to engage in the kind of speech and political and social advocacy that we take for granted in a free society.”

In its opinion issued in August 2013, the UNGWAD, which is responsible for examining cases of arbitrary detention, stated expressly that that the holding and expressing of opinions, including those which are not in line with official government policy, are protected under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Working Group noted that the provisions of Vietnamese law on the basis of which the petitions were convicted are “vague and overly broad.” It found that the deprivation of liberty of the petitioners, as well as the procedural deficiencies in their trials, contravened numerous provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The petitioners are Dang Xuan Dieu, Ho Duc Hoa, Nguyen Van Oai, Chu Manh Son, Dau Van Duong, Tran Huu Duc, Le Van Son, Nong Hung Anh, Nguyen Van Duyet, Nguyen Xuan Anh, Ho Van Oanh, Thai Van Dung, Tran Minh Nhat, Ta Phong Tan, Tran Vu Anh Binh, and Nguyen Dinh Cuong.

Read about the U.N. Working Group’s favorable ruling on the original petition.

About Allen S. Weiner

Allen S. Weiner is senior lecturer in law, director of the Stanford Program in International and Comparative Law, and co-director of the Stanford Center on International Conflict and Negotiation at Stanford University. He is an international legal scholar with expertise in such wide-ranging fields as international and national security law, the law of war, international conflict resolution, and international criminal law (including transitional justice). His scholarship focuses on international law and the response to the contemporary security threats of international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and situations of widespread humanitarian atrocities. He also explores the relationship between international and domestic law in the context of asymmetric armed conflicts between the United States and nonstate groups and the response to terrorism.