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Vietnam: Prominent Lawyer Sentenced to Seven Years’ Imprisonment Plus House Arrest

(Sept. 2, 2011) On August 2, 2011, in a trial that lasted only half a day, Vietnam's Supreme People's Court upheld on appeal a lower court ruling that sentenced civil rights lawyer and dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu to seven years of imprisonment, followed by three years of house arrest. Vu was charged with carrying out “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (SRV) under article 88 of the country's Criminal Code. (Human Rights Defender Cu Huy Ha Vu's Sentence Upheld in Appeal, FIDH (Aug. 3, 2011); Zach Zagger, Vietnam Appeals Court Upholds 7-Year Sentence for Prominent Rights Lawyer, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Aug. 3, 2011); see also Wendy Zeldin, Vietnam: Prominent Rights Lawyer Sentenced to Seven Years' Imprisonment, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Apr. 13, 2011).)

More precisely, Vu was sentenced on the basis of article 88, paragraph 1, item c, which prescribes a sentence of from 3 to 12 years for persons convicted of “making, storing and/or circulating documents and/or cultural products with contents” against the SRV. (Appeal Court Upholds Sentence on Cu Huy Ha Vu, NHÂN DÂN ONLINE [the central organ of the Communist Party of Vietnam] (Aug. 3, 2011); Penal Code (No. 15/1999/QH10) (Dec. 21, 1999), SRV Ministry of Justice website; Law Amending [and] Supplementing a Number of Articles of the Penal Code (No- 37/2009/QIII2) (June 29, 2009), 379-380 CÔNG BÁO [Official Gazette] (Aug. 14, 2009), NATLEX [art. 88 not affected].)

The entry into effect of the sentence is calculated from the date of Vu's arrest on November 5, 2010. According to the Communist Party of the SRV's central news organ, NHÂN DÂN, Vu “had posted many writings and interviews on the Internet and foreign radios” with content against the SRV. (NHÂN DÂN ONLINE, supra.) In particular, Vu had given interviews to the international press in which he called for the elimination of Vietnam's one-party rule, as well as for other democratic reforms. (Zagger, supra.)

Vu's November arrest occurred after he had tried twice to sue Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung over a controversial plan to mine bauxite and a decree that disallowed class-action petitions. According to Vu, as he stated in the appeal hearing, “Dung asked the Ministry of Public Security to build a case against him, because the lawsuits caused the prime minister to lose face,” and so, he argued, there were reasons of revenge for the case against him. (Vietnam Court Rejects Top Dissident's Appeal, THE BANGKOK POST (Aug. 2, 2011).) The trial was closed to foreign media and held under tight security; journalists could only view the proceedings from a separate room via closed-circuit television. (Id.; FIDH, supra.)