Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (23 September) on yesterday’s ruling by a court of appeal in Hanoi, which upheld the sentences of imprisonment handed to well-known Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh and his assistant:
I was appalled to hear that the court of appeal in Hanoi has upheld the long sentences of imprisonment imposed on the blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (five years) and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy (three years). It unfortunately remains the case that citizens in Viet Nam are put behind bars for years for exercising their right to the freedom of expression. The freedom of expression and the freedom of the press are fundamental rights that are guaranteed by the Vietnamese constitution.
I call on Viet Nam to lift the sentences against Nguyen Huu Vinh and his assistant. Arrests, sentences of imprisonment and reprisals may not be used by the state against bloggers and journalists who raise uncomfortable questions. This applies both to the Vietnamese constitution and to the country’s international obligations in the area of human rights.
Nguyen Huu Vinh was arrested in May 2014 and sentenced in March 2016 to five years’ imprisonment for “abusing democratic freedoms”; his co-defendant and assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy was handed a three-year jail sentence. Almost two years passed between his arrest and the first-instance verdict. According to reports by his family and NGOs, Vinh has, since October 2015, neither been allowed to receive visits from his wife nor to send letters to his family.
Vinh was the founder and author of websites that primarily sought to provide an overview of current news in Viet Nam. In the course of the first-instance proceedings, he was accused of having abused his democratic rights to infringe state interests through false allegations and accusations in multiple Internet articles. These articles focused on such topics as the role of the Communist Party, corruption and tensions between Viet Nam and China.