FORMER VIETNAMESE PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE: OPEN LETTER FROM ITS CO-CHAIRMEN

Being ourselves prisoners of conscience in the past who have stepped out from the smaller prisons into the larger prison outside, today we, consisting of 68 former prisoners of conscience totally 324 years of actual imprisonment, 9 years of suspended sentence and 93.5 years of probation, would like to come together to form an independent civil society entitled The Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience

Dr. Nguyễn Đan Quế and Reverend Phan Văn Lợi
Dr. Nguyễn Đan Quế and Reverend Phan Văn Lợi
Dr. Nguyễn Đan Quế and Reverend Phan Văn Lợi

Dear Vietnamese Compatriots inside Vietnam and in the Diaspora,

Dear International Friends in Democratic Countries,

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) is at the present time the focus of the world at large.  There are several reasons for this.  First, it has recently been elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (November 12, 2013) over the protests of many human rights organizations.  Secondly, on February 5, 2014, on the occasion of its second UPR (Universal Periodic Review) in Geneva, Switzerland, the official report of the SRV has been deemed very negatively by democratic countries and many human rights organizations, both Vietnamese and international, have protested very strongly against its claims.  This is because the SRV has continued to violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights to which Vietnam has signed on since 1982.  Furthermore, it is because the National Assembly of Vietnam, which is under the thumb of the Communist Party, on November 28, 2013, has passed a new Constitution in which the human and civil rights of the Vietnamese people have been crushed under the monopoly and prerogatives of the CPV (Communist Party of Vietnam).  The UN Convention Against Torture to which Vietnam became a signatory on November 7, 2013, and the Vietnam Law Day (November 9 every year) are only decorative acts taken by the regime.

The painful expression of these human rights violations is that there are at present a large number of prisoners of conscience, including land petitioners, religious and political prisoners, currently estimated at 525 persons.  These are citizens who in the last many years have stood up, either to protest the wrongdoings of the state or demand truth and justice for our compatriots or to fight for Freedom and Democracy for the Vietnamese Fatherland.

These prisoners of conscience are victims of a justice system which is full of contradictory and vague legal dispositions, laws and regulations which only aim at restricting, forbidding, or worse, at negating all human and civil rights so that the dictatorial one-party regime can be maintained.  It is a regime that only knows how to trap, deter and punish its citizens instead of protecting them, educating them and raising their level of consciousness so as to create social peace and harmony, a regime that only seeks to penalize opposition acts which originate from people’s conscience and therefore are necessarily political so as to preserve the ruling groups.

These prisoners of conscience are the victims of an unjust penal procedural code, which does not guarantee the interests of either the defendants or their attorneys; of a cruel prison system, which robs the prisoners not only of their civil rights but also of their basic human rights, a system which is ever ready to use torture and constantly exploits the prisoners’ labor and which uses every possible means to extort confession.  Many prisoners have risked their lives through hunger strikes.  Some sixteen cases of prolonged hunger strikes, both individual and collective, have been recorded in recent years.

Being ourselves prisoners of conscience in the past who have stepped out from the smaller prisons into the larger prison outside, today we, consisting of 68 former prisoners of conscience totally 324 years of actual imprisonment, 9 years of suspended sentence and 93.5 years of probation, would like to come together to form an independent civil society entitled The Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience, to continue our fight for a just cause by the side of other independent civil societies which have made their appearance in Vietnam, which are necessary for the reform of our country and society.

With the experience and training learned in prison, we would like to fight in peaceful and moderate fashion for a rule of law that would hold up human dignity, human rights, freedom and democracy, for a prison system that would include only criminal inmates treated in humane fashion in accordance with international criteria, and for a Vietnam that is civilized and prosperous, a society that is peaceful and harmonious in which the whole population lives in freedom and in true mastership of their lives.

With this, we would like to send to our dear compatriots both inside Vietnam and in the Diaspora, together with our International Friends:

– The Proclamation on the Establishment of our Association

– The Bylaws of the Former Prisoners of Conscience Association of Vietnam

– Our organizational structure: The Executive Board, the Standing Committee, and the Advisory Board.

We call on all former prisoners of conscience inside Vietnam to join us in this great endeavor.  We also invite and appeal to all the governments of democratic countries, to human rights NGOs, and to the media all over the world to support our organization so that, at least, in one corner of this world there would no longer be people who are imprisoned for raising the voice of their conscience, for speaking up about our people’s aspirations for freedom and democracy and for struggling for our inalienable human and civil rights.

Done in Vietnam on February 18, 2014

Co-Chairmen of the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience

Doctor NGUYEN DAN QUE

Reverend PHAN VAN LOI