Below is the text of Freedom Now’s News Release dated 10th february 2014. Highlights are ours.
For Immediate Release: Members of Congress Call for the Release of Imprisoned Vietnamese Labor Activists
February 10, 2014
Washington, D.C.: Today, eleven members of the House of Representatives joined a public letter to Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang calling for the release of three imprisoned labor rights activists. Among the signatories are Representatives Frank Wolf and James McGovern, the Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and Representative Chris Van Hollen, who adopted the case as part of the Commission’s Defending Freedoms Project.
Arrested in 2010, Do Thi Minh Hanh, Doan Huy Chuong, and Nguyen Quoc Hung are currently serving between seven and nine years in prison as a result of their activism on behalf of workers. The Vietnamese government arrested the trio after they attempted to organize striking workers at a shoe factory in My Phong and distributed leaflets with the workers’ demands. During the trial, the government denied Do, Doan, and Nguyen access to lawyers and prevented them from speaking in their own defense. All three have been beaten and forced to perform hard labor–Do in particular is deaf in one ear as a result of the beatings and is believed to be suffering from breast cancer.
In the letter, the Representatives condemn the “the considerable plight faced by independent labor activists in Vietnam,” noting that the imprisonment has already been found by the United Nations to violate international law. They close by stating that “For there to be any enhanced engagement between the United States and Vietnam—including expanded trade ties—Vietnam must address such cases,” and urge President Sang to “facilitate the immediate release” of the activists.
“While these activists are just three of many prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, their case is especially important as Vietnam and the U.S. negotiate a trade deal that reportedly includes labor protections,” said Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner.
Greg McGillivary, a partner at Washington, D.C. law firm Woodley and McGillivary, added that “this is a crucial recognition that Do, Doan, and Nguyen must be immediately released and provided access to urgently needed medical attention. Their continued imprisonment is a clear violation of Vietnam’s obligations under international law and we will continue campaigning on their behalf until they are freed and allowed to return to their important work.”
The full text of the letter is available in the PDF below. Freedom Now and Woodley & McGillivary serve as international pro bono co-counsel to Do, Doan, and Nguyen
We have also put the text of the letter below, and the names of signatories in the screenshot below the text.
Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
February 10, 2014
His Excellency Truong Tan Sang
President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
c/o Embassy of Vietnam
1233 20lh Street NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
Dear President Sang:
We write to express our serious concern about the imprisonment and mistreatment of independent labor activists in Vietnam. Such human rights abuses stand as a continued impediment to improved relations between our countries and are of particular concern in light of the ongoing negotiations regarding the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement—a document that reportedly includes labor protections.
As you know, ties between the United States and Vietnam have expanded greatly since relations were formalized in 1995. The United States is Vietnam’s largest national export market and we continue to cooperate on development priorities and regional security. Despite this cooperation, however, Vietnamese authorities continue to subject peaceful activists to long prison terms on national security charges after trials that fail to satisfy international due process standards. In response to such abuses, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Scott Busby reiterated in November the position that your government must make “demonstrable progress” on human rights for the relationship to deepen further.
Of particular concern is the detention and mistreatment of three labor rights organizers, Do Thi Minh Hanh, Doan Huy Chuong, and Nguyen Doan Quoc Hung. The three activists were arrested in 2010 for attempting to organize striking workers at the My Phong Enterprise Company. After their arrests, the three were repeatedly beaten and subjected to long periods of solitary confinement. The government sentenced them to between seven and nine years in prison on national security charges after a trial that failed to meet basic fair trial standards. Specifically, they were denied access to a lawyer and the court prevented them from speaking during the proceedings. Although the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found their imprisonment a violation of international law, all three remain in government custody.
We are also aware of reports indicating that the three activists are suffering from serious health problems as a result of their imprisonment. In particular, the family of Do Thi Minh Hanh believes that she may have breast cancer, but prison authorities have reportedly failed to provide her with the necessary access to medical treatment.
These cases highlight the considerable plight faced by independent labor activists in Vietnam. For there to be any enhanced engagement between the United States and Vietnam—including expanded trade ties—Vietnam must address such cases. The release of these peaceful Vietnamese prisoners of conscience is a critical first step toward greater cooperation between our governments, though many more human rights challenges must also be addressed, including the reported use of torture and mistreatment in Vietnamese detention centers.
We therefore request that you facilitate the immediate release of Do, Doan, and Nguyen.
(For names of signatories, see image below)