English PEN is one of 19 human rights organisations to have written to President Obama on behalf of Vietnamese lawyer, blogger and human rights defender Le Quoc Quan. The joint appeal respectfully calls on the President to raise our grave concerns over the arrest and arbitrary detention of Le Quoc Quan with President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam during his visit to the US this week.
The President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500
The Honourable John Kerry
U.S. Department of State
23 July 2013
Dear Mr President,
The signatory organisations respectfully request that you raise with the Vietnamese Government the arrest and arbitrary detention of Mr Le Quoc Quan, prominent lawyer, blogger and human rights defender. We understand that President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam will meet with you on 25 July 2013 and we sincerely hope that you will take this opportunity to discuss Mr Quan’s case with him.
Mr Quan is a qualified lawyer and active blogger who is currently detained for exercising his rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and for his activities as a human rights defender. Prior to his arrest, Mr Quan exposed human rights abuses commonly ignored by Vietnamese state media on his popular blog. He defended human rights cases in the Vietnamese courts until he was disbarred in 2007, when he was arrested and detained for 100 days upon his return from the United States where he had been a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. In April 2011, Mr Quan was arrested again and ultimately released without charges. In August 2012, he was severely injured in a violent attack committed by what he believes were State agents.
On 27 December 2012, Mr Quan was arrested and charged with alleged ‘tax evasion.’ He was detained incommunicado for the first two months and went on hunger strike for fifteen days. At this moment, Mr Quan is still imprisoned and is not allowed visits from his family. His trial was scheduled to take place on 9 July 2013, but was postponed at the last moment until further notice.
Mr Quan’s arrest and detention are in violation of Vietnam’s obligations under international law, in particular Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which impose duties on the government to protect Mr Quan’s rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. His treatment also contravenes state duties set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, to ensure and protect the rights of human rights defenders. More detailed information about Mr Quan and Vietnam’s unlawful interference with his human rights is set forth in the attached Letter of Allegation recently sent to the Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations.
Given the great importance of international attention to the effort to secure Mr Quan’s freedom, and to enable him to return to his indispensable human rights work, we hope you will seize the opportunity of President Sang’s upcoming visit to request the immediate release of Mr Quan.
Thank you for your kind consideration of our request. Please do not hesitate to have your staff contact us should you have any questions or need any additional information about this important case.
Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI)
Senior Legal Counsel
Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT)
Réseau Avocats Sans Frontières / ASF Network
ASF Network Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Global Policy Analyst
Head of Campaigns and Communications
Vice President for Regional Programs
Front Line Defenders
Human Rights Watch
Asia Advocacy Director
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L)
Adrie van de Streek
Media Defence – Southeast Asia
National Endowment for Democracy
Senior Director, Fellowship Programs
PEN American Center
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs
Reporters Without Borders
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
Vo Van Ai
World Movement for Democracy
Particular thanks to Nani Jansen at MLDI for her key role in drafting the letter.