Three human rights defenders engaged in activism relating to an ecological disaster in Viet Nam are facing severe harassment, including public denunciations, prosecution and death threats. They could be arrested for “conducting propaganda” against the state.
Since the deaths of an estimated 70 tonnes of fish, shrimp, squid and other animals along a 200 kilometre stretch of the Vietnamese central-eastern coastline in April 2016, demonstrations and other activities have taken place calling for information on the cause of the disaster. After two months of speculation, at a press conference in June, the government declared that Taiwanese company Formosa Plastics Group had admitted responsibility for the serious environmental disaster and that the company had pledged to pay VND11.5 trillion (US$ 500 million) in compensation to the Vietnamese government to improve conditions in the affected provinces.
Father Đặng Hữu Nam, Nguyễn Văn Tráng and Paulus Lê Văn Sơn have been involved in organising activities calling for transparency and accountability in relation to the disaster, including compensation for those affected. Father Đặng Hữu Nam, a Catholic priest from Phú Yên parish, Vinh diocese in Nghệ An province has been helping to organize mass protests. He has also assisted with legal complaints from 506 people to Viet Nam’s authorities to claim compensation from Formosa Plastic Group company. Nguyễn Văn Tráng, a university student from Thanh Hóa province and a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, an online pro-democracy discussion group, joined a protest against Formosa on 1 May and was arrested on 7 May and again on 19 May. Paulus Lê Văn Sơn, a former prisoner of conscience and Catholic social activist and journalist, has also participated in protests over the ecological disaster calling for justice and compensation.
Amnesty International is concerned that the three men are at imminent risk of arrest under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code for “conducting propaganda” against the state. These charges provides for between three and 20 years’ imprisonment. The three men have also faced severe harassment which has intensified after their activities linked to the ecological catastrophe: Father Nam has been subjected to surveillance, death threats, arrests and beatings by security police and individuals in plain clothes; Nguyễn Văn Tráng has been targeted through public denunciations in local media, on the radio and on neighbourhood loudspeakers; Paulus Lê Văn Sơn has been subjected to surveillance, denounced in local media and now fears for his safety.
Please write immediately in Vietnamese, English or your own language:
– Calling on the authorities to immediately end the harassment, attacks and threats against Father Đặng Hữu Nam, Nguyễn Văn Tráng and Paulus Lê Văn Sơn and other human rights defenders for their participation in peaceful protests.
– Calling on the authorities to ensure the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in accordance with Viet Nam’s obligations under international human rights law.