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Vietnam ‘needs to halt repression’ of women activists

Female prisoners receive copies of their presidential amnesty from policewomen following a ceremony where authorities announced their release, at a jail in Hanoi. The Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights has called on Vietnam to release all female rights activists in the country. (Photo by Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP)

ucanews.com reporter, Hano Vietnam

Human rights groups have called on the Vietnam government to end the persecution of women working for human rights, justice and democracy.

“International Women’s Day should be a wake-up call for Vietnamese authorities to halt the repression and abuse of women who speak out for human rights, social justice and progress,” Civil Rights Defenders said in a March 7 statement.
Civil Rights Defenders, an independent organization based in Sweden, condemned Vietnam in its statement issued a day before Women’s Day March 8. “They claim to uphold women’s rights while directly targeting women who advocate for a more just, open and gender-equal society,” the statement said.

It called on the Vietnamese authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release blogger Me Nam and all other women who are detained solely for the legitimate exercise of their rights.”
Bui Thi Minh Hang, a rights and democracy activist who was freed on Feb. 11 after three years in prison said that female prisoners of conscience suffer discrimination, torture and physical and mental abuse. They have no access to medical treatment and many of them protest by threatening suicide.

“I continue to struggle for people’s rights and interests and to build a society of justice and democracy. Imprisonment and suffering cannot stop our determination,” Hang told ucanews.com after her release.

Me Nam, whose real name is Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, has not been charged, or met her family, including her two young children, or her lawyer since she was arrested in October 2016 for producing “anti-state propaganda.” She faces up to 20 years in prison for her peaceful online advocacy against abuse of power, corruption and social injustice.

Tran Thi Nga, a member of the Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, was also arrested Jan. 21. The two of them are among 20 women activists imprisoned in Vietnam.

Amnesty International commended Tran Thi Nga and five other female activists from Southeast Asia in a list released on March 7.

“In Southeast Asia, there are few governments who can be proud of their human rights records, but there are countless women across the region who have braved great dangers to take a stand against injustice,” Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific Champa Patel said in a statement.

Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, a local organization working to end violence and torture against women activists, reported at least 42 cases of women activists and their relatives being harassed, assaulted and threatened in 2014.

Some 20 civil society groups and 50 women advocates in Vietnam on March 3 issued a statement supporting female prisoners of conscience.

“Many women are imprisoned for normal deeds that contribute to society. We cannot celebrate Women’s Day without remembering them,” the statement said.