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Human Rights Commissioner Kofler on the conviction of a Vietnamese blogger

30.06.2017 - Press release

Bärbel Kofler, Human Rights Commissioner of the Federal Government, issued the following statement today (30 June) on the conviction of the Vietnamese blogger and human rights activist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (known by her pen name, Mother Mushroom):

I am shocked by the conviction of the blogger and activist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and her sentencing to ten years’ imprisonment. This sentence clearly serves a political purpose and runs counter to human rights principles. It also violates international obligations with respect to civil and political rights under agreements that Viet Nam itself has signed. The prison sentence is inordinately long and shows that fundamental rights – namely freedom of the press and of opinion, which are laid down in the Vietnamese constitution – were not given due consideration.

Ms Quynh spoke out against social injustice and corruption. As a journalist, she raised awareness about the large number of unexplained deaths among people who were detained and in police custody. She also worked tirelessly in support of the fishermen and their families who have been affected by an environmental disaster in central Viet Nam.

The fact that authorities are responding to this blogger’s efforts to defend human rights and protect both the environment and consumers in the same way they are responding to other bloggers, namely with reprisals, arrests, and by handing down prison sentences, sends an alarming signal. It is especially worrisome considering the government has proclaimed it is working to implement administrative, environmental and consumer protection reforms. Without civic engagement and greater transparency, the aim of truly modernising the country cannot be achieved.

It makes me sad to think how this sentence will affect Ms Quynh and her two underage children. What also saddens me is that the Vietnamese Government is not tapping the potential of its engaged citizens to further develop the country. I hope she will be acquitted in a court of appeal.

Background information

Ms Quynh is one of the best‑known bloggers in Viet Nam and writes under the pen name Mother Mushroom. She was declared 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year by the eponymous Swedish NGO. Following her arrest, she was presented in absentia with the International Women of Courage Award by Melania Trump in March 2017.

In her posts, Quynh focuses on social problems, government mismanagement, environmental pollution, and detention conditions. Most recently, Quynh was actively engaged in the fight to defend the rights of fishermen in central Viet Nam, who have been affected by an environmental disaster caused by industrial waste. Ms Quynh criticised, among other things, the inaction of government authorities with regard to financially powerful environmental polluters. She also spoke out for imprisoned activists and their families.

It is especially for her environmental protection efforts that Ms Quynh and her family have suffered a large number of reprisals since the autumn of 2016. These have included attempts at public humiliation in her local community. On 10 October 2016, Ms Quynh’s house was searched by dozens of police officers and she herself was arrested.

The European Union, Germany, the United States and other countries have lobbied intensively in recent months in support of Ms Quynh – with statements, during official meetings and through the EU‑Viet Nam Human Rights Dialogue. Frank Schwabe, a Member of the German Bundestag, is campaigning for Ms Quynh’s release as part of the programme “Parliamentarians protect Parliamentarians”.

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