Vietnam: Human rights defender Mrs Tran Khai Thanh Thuy attacked and arrested on assault charges

31 10 2009


On 19 October 2009 human rights defender, Mrs Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was reportedly moved to iHoa Lu prison, Hanoi, following her arrest on 8 October on charges of assault. Members of her family have reported that she was the victim of an assault at the hands of police agents, and that the photograph used as evidence against her has been doctored.

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy

Further Information

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy is a novelist and journalist, member of banned pro-democracy group Bloc 8406, and an honorary member of English PEN, which works to promote literature and human rights. In 2007 Tran Khai Thanh Thuy received the Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammett Award.

On 8 October 2009, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was arrested while travelling to support six other activists on trial for hanging pro-democracy banners and peacefully expressing their opinions on government policies through internet essays and writings. About 10km from Hai Phong City, the police stopped her car and arrested her. After several hours of detention, she was released to her home at approximately 4 pm, and told that she could not leave her house. At approximately 8.30 pm that evening, there was a disturbance at her home, caused by two individuals, allegedly plain-clothes police officers. As they were unable to identify the individuals as police officers, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy and her husband, Mr Do Ba Tan, screamed and tried to defend themselves in front of their 13 year-old daughter, but Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was hit with bricks and suffered an injury to the top of her head. Police officers stationed outside the house did not intervene.

After going to the hospital, the couple were arrested and taken to the police station in Dong Da district, Hanoi. While in detention, the state media circulated a story of the arrest which claimed that the couple had been responsible for an assault on a neighbour. Police Colonel Vu Cong Long, Dong Da district police chief, stated that Do Ba Tan “left his motorbike to block the paths” on their street, and that when the neighbour suggested he move it, an argument ensued in which Do Ba Tan “used his helmet to beat his neighbour in the face”. In addition, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was accused of hitting his neighbour with a brick during the argument. Tran Khai Thanh Thuy is now facing assault charges of “intentionally causing injury”, which carries a sentence of up to three years in prison. Do Ba Tan was released on 12 October and the police stated that they will not bring changes against him. Her family report that Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was moved to Hoa Lu prison in Hanoi on the morning of 19 October.

However, sources point out inaccuracies in the claims which are not substantiated by the evidence provided by the authorities. In particular, details embedded in a digital photograph of the neighbour’s injuries have shown that the picture was taken on 28 February 2005 and that the provider of the picture had used Photoshop software to change the date of the images to that of 9 October 2009. In addition, the person in the photograph has not been proved to be the neighbour, although Colonel Vu Cong has referred to him as the “victim”.

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy has been subject to ongoing harassment by the Vietnamese authorities. On 7 October 2009 Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was denied access to the Hanoi courthouse to attend the trial of teacher Vu Hung, despite the announcement by the authorities of a “public trial” for the proceedings. Police backed down after the intervention of foreign embassy representatives present at the court. In April 2007 she was arrested at her home and later sentenced to nine months’ and ten days imprisonment for “disturbing public order”. She was released on 31 January 2008. In October 2006 she was publicly denounced and humiliated during a trial in the “People’s Court” organised by the authorities. She and her family are subject to police surveillance and ongoing harassment – for example, her home has been attacked by thugs, allegedly hired by the police, and she and her family have received threatening phone calls.

Front Line believes that the arrest, imprisonment and harassment of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy is directly related to her work in the defence of human rights in Vietnam. Front Line sees this as part of a pattern of ongoing harassment against Tran Khai Thanh Thuy as a human rights defender. Tran Khai Thanh Thuy suffers from diabetes and advanced tuberculosis, and was refused adequate medical care during her previous time in prison. Front Line is thus seriously concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy.

Front Line urges the Vietnamese authorities to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, as Front Line believes that she is being held solely as a result of her legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights, and carry out an immediate and impartial investigation into the harassment and intimidation of her with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

2. Ensure that the treatment of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, whilst in detention, adheres to all those conditions set out in the “Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by General Assembly Resolution 45/111 of 14 December 1990”;

3. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy and her family including providing her with access to independent medical assistance, as well as guaranteeing her husband the right to prison visits, in order to provide the required medication for his wife;

4. Revise national security provisions in the Penal Code, including in particular Article 88, and bring them into compliance with international standards;

5. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Vietnam are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.





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