Blogger Transferred to Remote Prison
The arbitrary transfer of political prisoner Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức to a remote prison does not comply with Vietnam’s obligations under international human rights law and standards, Civil Rights Defenders said today. Thức, who was an active blogger before his imprisonment, was transferred on 5 May to a prison about 1500 km away from where his immediate family is based. His family did not receive prior notice. Thức told his family last weekend that he will conduct a hunger strike starting on 24 May, which marks the seven-year anniversary of his detention.
In March, Thức and several political prisoners conducted a 13-day hunger strike to protest the prison authorities’ arbitrary restrictions of their right to send and receive documents from family members and the use of solitary confinement as a punishment. Prior to his transfer, prison officials allegedly threatened Thức with retaliation after Thức brought his complaints to them and mailed complaint letters to other state bodies regarding ill-treatment of political prisoners. No responses from these bodies have been received so far.
As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Vietnam has the obligation to ensure all persons deprived of their liberty are “treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person” (Article 10). In an authoritative General Comment on Article 10, the UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors state compliance with the Covenant, has affirmed that treating prisoners with humanity and respect for their dignity is “a fundamentally and universally applicable rule” which “must be applied without distinction of any kind,” including political opinion.
In 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) found that Thức’s detention was arbitrary and called on Vietnam to release him and provide him with compensation.
Civil Rights Defenders calls on Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release Thức and other persons detained or imprisoned for exercising their human rights. Pending their release, Civil Rights Defenders urges authorities at detention centers and prisons in Vietnam to comply with Article 10 of the ICCPR and international human rights standards, in particular the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules) which include:
- Rule 43.3: Disciplinary sanctions or restrictive measures shall not include the prohibition of family contact. The means of family contact may only be restricted for a limited time period and as strictly required for the maintenance of security and order.
- Rule 57.2: Safeguards shall be in place to ensure that prisoners can make requests or complaints safely and, if so requested by the complainant, in a confidential manner. A prisoner […] must not be exposed to any risk of retaliation, intimidation or other negative consequences as a result of having submitted a request or complaint.
- Rule 59: Prisoners shall be allocated, to the extent possible, to prisons close to their homes or their places of social rehabilitation.
- Rule 68: Every prisoner shall have the right, and shall be given the ability and means, to inform immediately his or her family, or any other person designated as a contact person, about his or her imprisonment, about his or her transfer to another institution […].
On 24 May 2009, police arrested Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức under the initial charge of “promoting anti-government propaganda” under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. On 20 January 2010, in a one-day trial, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City convicted Thức and three co-defendants for “conducting activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the Penal Code. The court sentenced him to 16 years’ imprisonment followed by five years of house arrest.
Thức had been imprisoned in Xuyên Mộc Prison in the southern province of Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu. On 7 May 2016, an external party told Thức’s family that Thức had been transferred to another prison camp in Nghe An province in north-central Vietnam. On 8 May, Thức’s family went to Xuyên Mộc Prison to inquire about the transfer. The prison authorities confirmed the transfer and said that they acted under an order dated 5 May 2016 from the Bureau of Criminal Judgments Enforcement and Justice Assistance under the Ministry of Public Security. No legitimate justifications for the transfer were given.
Thức is now in Prison No. 6 in Hanh Lam ward, Thanh Chương district, Nghe An province, about 1500 km from Ho Chi Minh City. Xuyên Mộc Prison is approximately 100 km from Ho Chi Minh City.