In his blog, Truong Duy Nhat has often criticized the government and raised concerns about China’s claims to maritime territory off the Vietnamese coast. He has also called for the resignation of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and the Communist Party general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, accusing them of being responsible for what he described as Vietnam’s “political chaos” and “uncontrolled corruption.”

“Truong Duy Nhat’s trial is part of the Vietnamese government’s futile effort to silence the increasingly effervescent community of Vietnamese bloggers,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Instead of creating another political prisoner, the government should release Truong Duy Nhat and all others who are jailed merely for disagreeing with the government and the party.”

Truong Duy Nhat’s indictment states that his opinions caused people to lose faith in the government and communist party. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.

Truong Duy Nhat, 50, is a former journalist with two official publications. He worked for the police newspaper of Quang Nam-Da Nang province from 1987 to 1995, and for the Dai Doan Ket (Great Unity) newspaper from 1995 to 2011. In 2011, he announced he would no longer report for the authorized media and founded the blog Mot goc nhin khac (Another Point of View).

On May 26, 2013, shortly after a posting that called for resignation of the prime minister and Communist Party chief, officials from the national Public Security Ministry arrested him at his home in Da Nang during a wave of arrests of bloggers. He was taken to Hanoi for police questioning and has been held in pretrial detention since. His blog ceased publication.

Apparently in response to the call for the officials’ resignations, the People’s Procuracy in Hanoi indicted him on December 17 under article 258 of Vietnam’s penal code. This vague provision outlawing “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state” has routinely been used to imprison people for peaceful criticism of official policies and practices.

Since the arrests of Truong Duy Nhat and others in 2013, a newly established Network of Vietnamese Bloggers and other recently formed groups have campaigned against the use of article 258 to penalize freedom of opinion. Freedom of opinion is guaranteed in article 26 of the amended Vietnamese constitution that came into force on January 1, 2014. At the Universal Periodic Review of Vietnam’s human rights record by the United Nations Human Rights Council on February 5, 2014, several UN member countries also called for Vietnam to stop using article 258 to prosecute people for expressing peaceful views.

“Vietnam’s government keeps testing the response of the international community to see if it will react when it uses the criminal law against peaceful critics,” Adams said. “Unless Truong Duy Nhat walks free, Vietnam’s donors and development partners should show the government that it can’t continue to lock people up this way without consequences.”

Human Rights Watch - March 3, 2014

US’s evaluations on human rights in Vietnam inaccurate

Some assessments about Vietnam in the US Department of State’s 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices are based on inaccurate information and do not reflect the real situation in Vietnam, said Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Le Hai Binh on February 28.

In reply to reporters’ questions on Vietnam’s reaction to the US report, the spokesperson affirmed: “Ensuring human rights is a focus in all socio-economic policies of Vietnam. The country’s efforts have been recognised by the international community at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the second cycle in February this year.”

He underscored that in a straightforward and constructive spirit, Vietnam is always willing to hold dialogue with other countries that hold different points of view on human rights, including the US.

This will help enhance mutual understanding, thus narrowing differences and raising the accuracy and objectiveness of evaluations on human rights in Vietnam, he added.

US releases Vietnam Human Rights Report 2013

The US Department of State has recently released its annual reports on the human rights situation in many countries around the world, including Vietnam.

The Vietnam Report on Human Rights Practices for 2013, released on February 27 (local time), continues with incorrect information about the situation in Vietnam, including the so-called “political prisoners” and restrictions on people’s rights to freedom of speech and press.

However, in an exclusive interview granted to a Washington DC-based VOV correspondent, Uzra Zeya, Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour said the US has acknowledged Vietnam’s human rights progress, especially in religious freedom, citing an increase in the number of licensed places of worship.

She also welcomed Vietnam’s decision to sign the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and respect the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

Vietnam and the US have held 17 human rights dialogues since they normalised relations in 1995. They have frankly discussed issues of common concern, aiming to settle outstanding differences.

Zeya said both the US and Vietnam have reached a common consensus on a number of human rights issues. The US appreciates and wants to maintain regular human rights dialogues with Vietnam, to not only facilitate progress in the issue but strengthen bilateral relations.

Zeya said both sides need to increase exchange and mutual understanding through various channels to resolve human rights differences.

An optimal solution for dealing with such differences, according to Zeya, is through dialogue and interaction between the two governments and peoples. During a recent Vietnam visit, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Vietnamese leaders and people, and attended a mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral in HCM City.

Vietnam was elected to the UN Human Rights Council in November 2013, receiving the highest votes among nominees. Its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Report was also approved by the Human Rights Council UPR working group in February 2014, demonstrating the international community’s appreciation of Vietnam’s human rights progress.

Vietnam News Agency - March 3, 2014