Activist Phuong Ba Trinh (Source: BBC)
According to Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” Theoretically it is a diplomatic pledge by countries (including Vietnam) committing to uphold human rights. In reality, however, the situation in Vietnam is quite a contrast.
Recently, Phuong Ba Trinh, a human rights activist who was held in detention center No. 1, was forcefully transferred from the local prison, a mental institution. Report from another activist Nghien Thanh Pham was that: “On March 19, 2021, Phuong’s wife, Ms. Thu Thi Do, upon arriving at the detention center No. 1 of Hanoi Police station as per her normal visit, only to find out that Phuong is no longer detained there. When questioned, the detention center officer replied to Ms. Do that Mr. Phuong Ba Trinh was already transferred about 2-3 weeks ago to an unknown location.
Only 4 days later, Ms. Do Thi Thu continued questioning the local police to disclose details of Phuong’s whereabouts, only then she was told by investigator Bac The Nguyen, that Phuong was “transferred” to the Central Psychiatric Hospital number 1 for the purpose of “serving the investigation”.
Above (left to right): Pham Doan Trang before and after the attack, and the broken helmet that was thrown by the side of the road after the beating
Below (left to right): Nguyen Tin in a fundraising event for political prisoner Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (“Mother Mushroom”) and after the assault; Nguyen Dang Cao Dai after the assault
Before Phuong, there were many cases of being secretly transferred to psychiatric camps, without informing their families in advance, such as journalist Hung Anh Le, engineer Linh Trung Nguyen, writer Pham Thanh. Phuong Ba Trinh is a special case because both his mother, Ms. Theu Thi Can and his younger brother Tu Ba Trinh, were also detained by the Vietnamese government for a long time without trial at all.
Just as in the preamble of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
“…Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people”.
Photos of Duc Do Van Nguyen (Source: Human Rights Watch))
Right or wrong is still yet to be confirmed in the case of Phuong Ba Trinh, but on March 26, 2021, VOA Vietnamese radio presented information regarding Amnesty International’s announcement that requested the Vietnamese authority to stop all forms of torture and mistreatment against political activist Duc Do Van Nguyen. At the same time, it reiterated the request for his immediate and unconditional release.
Mr Nguyen has been held since 2016 and is currently serving the 11-year prison sentence at Xuan Loc detention center, Dong Nai. However, he has been detained in solitary confinement for more than 300 days since May 2020. In prison, he was tortured and abused when he spoke out against his harsh prison conditions. According to his brother Hai Duc Nguyen, Mr Nguyen was beaten by security officers, and was chain-shackled 24/24. Meals were deliberately served mixed with human feces along with three glasses of dirty water a day.
The long solitary confinement has seriously affected the health, body and spirit of Mr. Nguyen. So much so that he told his family upon their visit to write to the president, suggesting to end his life, as he could not continue living in such conditions. Hien Thu Vu, the writer who was famous for his memoir “Darkness in daytime” (whose father was Ho Chi Minh’s personal secretary), was jailed from 1967-1976, and then under house arrest for four years, bitterly exclaimed: “There are lots of Vietnamese going to jail, often are kept there for a long time … ”
It was a simple statement, but very accurate. The number of prisoners engaged in political activities and human rights receiving long prison sentences in Vietnam is still very high and still growing on a daily basis. It is a never-ending topic under the Vietnamese dictatorship regime. It is still unknown what other human rights are being taken away from the people of Vietnam. However, only the courage and the love for peace and freedom are the ultimate motivation that helps them get through the harsh, unjust conditions of Vietnam’s prisons. On the contrary, the Vietnamese communist authority deliberately and blatantly suppress any protests or opposition.
By Đặng Quân