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Vietnam Nguyen Van Dai sentenced to 15 years in prison

06 Apr 18 

On 5 April 2018, the Vietnamese human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 5 years of house arrest. He was accused of "trying to overthrow the government". This was reported by Reporters Without Borders. His conviction seems to be connected to his valuable human rights work. Lawyers for Lawyers has been campaigning for the release of Nguyen Van Dai since his arrest, over two years ago, and is shocked to learn about the harsh sentence Nguyen Van Dai was convicted to. We will continue to closely monitor Nguyen Van Dai's situation and will continue to campaign for his release. 

Nguyen Van Dai is the co-founder of the Vietnam Human Rights Committee and a prodemocracy activist. He has provided legal assistance to government critics and members of religious minorities. On 16 December 2015, Nguyen Van Dai was arrested while he was on his way to a meeting with delegates from the European Union as part of the annual EU-Viet Nam Dialogue on Human Rights. His house was searched, items of property seized, and he was transferred immediately to a detention centre. Hereafter, Nguyen Van Dai was held incommunicado for a long period of time. 

In 2017, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention(WGAD) published an Opinion calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Nguyen Van Dai. The WGAD found that Nguyen Van Dai’s arrest and detention were arbitrary and designed to prevent him from exercising his right to freely express his views on the political and human rights situation in Viet Nam. According to the WGAD “the repetitive and systematic harassment, assault and detention of Mr. Dai by the Vietnamese authorities for more than 10 years, which was alleged by the source and not contested by the Government, indicate that Mr. Dai’s present detention is part of a pattern of persecution for his activities as a human rights defender.” Notably the Working Group also recognised that the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of persons in Viet Nam is a systemic problem and cautioned that “widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.”

The WGAD Opinion was the result of a petition that was filed jointly by the Media Legal Defence Initiative, Lawyers for Lawyers, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, PEN International and Viet Tan in November 2016. Just before the start of the trial on 5 April, Media Legal Defence Initiative – on behalf of the organizations mentioned above- submitted an update and request for urgent action on behalf of Nguyen Văn Đài to the WGAD.

This is not the first time Nguyen Van Dai was arrested. In 2007, Van Dai was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment, also for spreading propaganda against the state. After he served his sentence in 2011, he was placed under house arrest for a while. All this has not stopped Nguyen Van Dai from promoting human rights. Besides his work as a lawyer, he writes blogs and articles about human rights in Vietnam.

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