UN experts urge Viet Nam to stop the persecution and torture of religious leaders and rights defenders
United Nations human rights experts today called on the Government of Viet Nam to stop the persecution of Ms. Tran Thi Hong, who has been repeatedly arrested and tortured as retaliation for informing the international community of human rights violations against her husband, who is in prison for peaceful religious activities.
The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, and the Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Mendez, also urged the Vietnamese authorities to put an end to all persecution and harassment, including criminalization, against religious leaders and human rights defenders, women human rights defenders and members of their families.
Ms. Tran, spouse of imprisoned Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, was initially arrested on 14 April 2016. She was tortured and warned to stop her activities promoting freedom of religion. Since then, Ms. Tran Thi Hong has been repeatedly arrested and harassed by the authorities, who are trying to force her to ‘cooperate’ with the Government.
“We are concerned that the repeated arrests and the continuing detention of Ms. Tran resulted from her peaceful human rights work and exercise of her fundamental rights, which constitutes arbitrary detention,” the experts said calling for her unconditional release.
Her husband has been in prison since 2011 for his religious activities as director of the Vietnam-U.S. Lutheran Alliance Church, which is considered as ‘anti-Government’ and ‘anti-communist’ by the authorities. In prison, he has been subjected to torture and deprived of contact with his family.
“The Vietnamese Government has the obligation to respect the right of religious communities to organize themselves as independent communities and to appoint their own leaders,” said Special Rapporteur Bielefeldt.
“The severe beating, by authorities who did not identify themselves, amounts to torture and must be investigated and those responsible held accountable, in accordance with Viet Nam’s international human rights obligations,” Mr. Mendez, added.
The UN Special Rapporteurs concluded that “Viet Nam should immediately and unconditionally release Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh and Ms. Tran Thi Hong, as well as all persons detained for their legitimate activities in the defence of human rights.”
The human rights experts’ appeal has also been endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr. Michel Forst; the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr. Maina Kiai; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. David Kaye; the Special Rappo rteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Dubravka Šimonovi?; and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention .
Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt (Germany) assumed his mandate in August 2010. Mr. Bielefeldt is Professor of Human Rights and Human Rights Politics at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. From 2003 to 2009, he was Director of Germany’s National Human Rights Institution. The Special Rapporteur’s research interests include various interdisciplinary facets of human rights theory and practice, with a focus on freedom of religion or belief. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/FreedomReligionIndex.aspx
Mr. Juan E. Mendez (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in November 2010. He has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, and has a long and distinguished record of advocacy throughout the Americas. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx