The Human Rights Committee urges Vietnamese authorities to release Nguyen Ngoc Anh

In a letter to the President Vo Van Thuong, the Human Rights Committee of Sweden’s Scientific and Literary Academies urges Vietnamese authorities to immediately release Vietnamese engineer Nguyen Ngoc Anh, who has been imprisoned under harsh conditions since 2018.

The letter:

Stockholm 7 September 2023

We, the Human Rights Committee of Sweden’s Scientific and Literary Academies, respectfully write to seek your urgent assistance with the case of Vietnamese engineer Nguyen Ngoc Anh, who is imprisoned under difficult conditions in connection with his peaceful expressions of dissent.

Mr. Anh is an aquatic engineer, who had been living and working in the coastal province of Ben Tre.  In August 2018, he was taken into police custody and held in incommunicado detention for six months. We understand that, in a one-day trial in June 2019 that was effectively closed, Mr. Anh was convicted by the People’s Court of Ben Tre Province of “making, storing, disseminating or propagandizing materials and products that aim to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code, and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. Five months later, his conviction and sentence were upheld on appeal.  According to reliable reports, Mr. Anh was denied the right to meet with legal counsel during the investigation of his case. We share the concerns of several U.N. independent human rights experts that Mr. Anh’s comments on social media have been characterized as offences against national security under vague and an overly broad interpretation of the provisions of the Criminal Code of Vietnam.

We are also deeply troubled by reports that Mr. Anh’s conditions of confinement in Xuan Loc Detention Center are extremely harsh. We understand that, despite repeated requests to be transferred to a cell where conditions are better – as well as a sit-in and a hunger strike to protest his situation – no action has been taken to bring his conditions into conformity with international law standards.

In light of the information above, the charges and conviction of Mr. Anh appears to stem solely from his peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, which are protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Vietnam is a party. Thus, we respectfully urge you to use your good offices to help secure Mr. Anh’s prompt and unconditional release from prison. In the interim, we ask that you take steps to ensure that his conditions of confinement are in conformity with the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules), including that he is transferred to a cell where his environment is clean and healthy and that he has regular access to his family and all needed medical care.

Thank you in advance, Your Excellency, for your attention to this matter.

Respectfully yours,

Peter Pagin
Professor, Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of Sweden’s Scientific and Literary Academies

The Human Rights Committee of Sweden’s Scientific and Literary Academies includes members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, the Swedish Academy and the Young Academy of Sweden.