Freedom House Slams Return of Prominent Vietnamese Activist to Prison | Freedom House

Freedom House Slams Return of Prominent Vietnamese Activist to Prison

Washington

Freedom House condemns the Vietnamese government’s decision to return dissident and Catholic priest, Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly to prison, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. The July 25 arrest and conviction of Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly is a clear indication that freedom of religion and expression remain under constant threat in Vietnam.
 
Father Ly is a well-known activist and Roman Catholic priest with ties to a number of pro-democracy movements, including Block 8406, which has been pushing for religious and political freedom in Vietnam for decades. Father Ly was arrested on July 25 in Hue, Vietnam for continuing to engage in political activity after a temporary suspension of his eight-year prison sentence for disseminating anti-government materials and planning a boycott of legislative elections.  The Vietnamese government granted Ly temporary medical leave in March 2010 after he suffered several strokes and a brain tumor, on the condition that he did not engage in “dissident behavior.”  Ly has been in and out of prison since the 1970’s, including his arrest and imprisonment in October 2001 after testifying before the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on religious freedom violations. He was released in 2005 when Vietnam was designated a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC),” and then re-imprisoned in 2007 once that classification was lifted.
 
“Father Ly’s imprisonment underscores the Vietnamese government’s ongoing campaign to place a stranglehold on freedom of expression and religion in Vietnam,” said David J. Kramer, president at Freedom House. “Father Ly has been convicted countless times over the years, for merely expressing his political opinions, a fundamental right to which all citizens should be entitled. Freedom House calls on the Vietnamese government to immediately release Father Ly and to take the steps necessary to ensure that all Vietnamese citizens can freely engage in peaceful political discourse.”
 
The human rights situation in Vietnam has drastically deteriorated over the last four years as the government has increasingly cracked down on political dissidents, bloggers and internet users. Observers attribute the recent escalating repression to the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV)’s 11th party Congress in January 2011. Freedom of expression continues to be stifled as the government suppresses lawyers, academics, religious leaders, bloggers and other critics. The government has detained bloggers and disabled web sites critical of authorities or those that provide information deemed “sensitive” such as religious freedom and human rights. Authorities also continues to utilize draconian legislation, including penal code articles 87 and 88, which forbid disseminating anti-government propaganda and undermining national unity, respectively, to stifle dissent. 
 
“Given that Vietnam continues to silence voices that advocate for religious freedom and human rights, it is perhaps the moment for the U.S. State Department to reconsider the lifting of the CPC designation,” said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, senior program manager for International Religious Freedom and Southeast Asia.
 
Vietnam is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2011 and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2010.
 
For more information on Vietnam, visit:
 
 
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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