English PEN is seriously concerned by reports that poet, journalist, essayist and novelist Nguyen Xuan Nghia is being punished for having revealed that fellow detainee Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) was on hunger strike.
In July 2013, the international community learnt that blogger Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) had been on hunger strike in prison for the past 30 days in protest against the adverse conditions and treatment he and his fellow inmates are receiving from the jail guards and officers inside Prison Camp No. 6 in Thanh Chuong District, Nghe An Province in Central Viet Nam. English PEN was among ten human rights organisations to write to President Obama urging him to raise our concerns for Nguyen Van Hai with President Truong Tan Sang during his recent visit to the US. (Read the full text of the letter here.)
Shortly afterwards, we discovered that Nguyen Van Hai’s family and the outside world had only learned of this hunger strike because another of PEN’s case of concern, poet, journalist, essayist and novelist Nguyen Xuan Nghia, had selflessly put himself at further risk by informing his wife about the strike during her most recent visit to the prison where the two writers are held. According to reports, the prison guards immediately muffled him and used excessive force to drag him across the floor and out of the visiting area. It has since been reported that he is now being held incommunicado and in solitary confinement, where he is likely to remain for at least three months.
Former political prisoners have described solitary confinement in Vietnam as follows:
During the period of solitary confinement, the prisoner either lives in complete darkness or with a light never turning off. He has just enough space to lie down on the ground or the concrete floor of the cells. He is often not provided bedding, blankets, or even mosquito nets… Most of the prisoners are shackled with leg irons fastened to a steel bar generally 24 hours a day or occasionally just at night. A poor squat toilet or a bucket installed in the cell will be used by the prisoner as his toilet. Access to minimum medical care will rarely be granted except in cases where the prisoner runs a high risk of dying in the cell. Food and drinking water are critically insufficient and inadequate.
In addition to being held in solitary confinement, Nguyen Xuan Nghia is likely to be denied family visits, meaning that he will no longer have access to the medicine and food his wife brings him which he urgently needs. His family and the international community are gravely concerned for his health and well-being.
English PEN urges the Vietnamese authorities to ensure that Nguyen Xuan Nghia is not punished for disclosing details of his co-detainee Nguyen Van Hai’s hunger strike, and continues to call for the immediate and unconditional release of both writers and all those detained in Vietnam in violation of their right to free expression. Please join us.
Please send appeals:
- Urging the Vietnamese authorities to ensure that Nguyen Xuan Nghia is not punished for disclosing details of co-detainee Nguyen Van Hai’s hunger strike;
- Expressing grave concern for the health and safety of blogger Nguyen Van Hai, who is reported to be seriously ill as a result of the hunger strike, poor treatment and lack of medical care in detention;
- Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of both writers and all those detained in violation of their rights to freedom of expression, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam is a state party.
Appeals to be sent to:
His Excellency Truong Tan San
President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
C/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Please note that there are no fax numbers available for the Vietnamese authorities, so you may wish to ask the diplomatic representative for Vietnam in your country to forward your appeals. It would also be advantageous to ask your country’s diplomatic representatives in Vietnam to intervene in the case.
His Excellency Mr Vu Quang Minh
Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
12-14 Victoria Road,
You may wish to write to the authorities using the form below. A sample letter is provided, but we would highly recommend personalising your appeal.
[ecampaign ‘email@example.com’ subject=”In support of Nguyen Xuan Nghia”]
I am writing to you as a supporter of English PEN, the founding centre of the international association of writers, on behalf of imprisoned poet, journalist, essayist and novelist Nguyen Xuan Nghia who has reportedly been subject to punishment in prison for revealing that a fellow detainee, blogger Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay), was on hunger strike.
According to PEN’s information, Nguyen Van Hai’s family only learned that the imprisoned blogger was on hunger strike because Nguyen Xuan Nghia informed his wife during her most recent visit to the prison where the two writers are held. According to reports, the prison guards immediately muffled Nguyen Xuan Nghia and used excessive force to drag him across the floor and out of the visiting area. It has since been reported that he is now being held incommunicado and in solitary confinement, where he is likely to remain for at least three months.
I am writing to urge the Vietnamese authorities to ensure that Nguyen Xuan Nghia is not punished for disclosing details of Nguyen Van Hai’s hunger strike, and to call for his immediate release from solitary confinement. I am also gravely concerned for the health and safety of Nguyen Van Hai who is reported to be seriously ill as a result of his hunger strike and and a lack of medical care in detention.
I believe that both Nguyen Xuan Nghia and Nguyen Van Hai are being held solely for peacefully expressing their opinions. I am therefore calling for the immediate and unconditional release of both writers and of all those currently detained in Vietnam in violation of their right to freedom of expression, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam is a state party.
I would welcome your comments on my appeal.
Nguyen Xuan Nghia is a poet, journalist, essayist and novelist, a member of the Hai Phong Association of Writers and a founding member of the banned democracy movement known as Bloc 8406. He was also the editor of the underground democracy journal To Quoc (Fatherland). As a journalist, he wrote for all the main government papers until 2003, when the government banned him as a result of his pro-democracy activities.
Arrested in September 2008, Nguyen Xuan Nghia was held for over a year without trial. His hearing finally took place on 9 October 2009 and lasted just a few hours before he was convicted of conducting anti-government propaganda under Article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code and sentenced to six years in prison and three years in probationary detention. Article 88 forbids ‘all propaganda against the Communist system of government’ as well as ‘slanderous allegations undermining national security, the social order and the people’s trust in the Party.’ The indictment against him, dated 3 July 2009, cited 57 pieces he had written between 2007 and his arrest in 2008, including poetry, literature, short stories and articles that allegedly sought to ‘insult the Communist Party of Vietnam, distort the situation of the country, slander and disgrace the country’s leaders, demand a pluralistic and multiparty system…and incite and attract other people into the opposition movement.’
On 21 January 2010, an appeals court in the northern port city of Haiphong upheld Nguyen Xuan Nghia’s sentence. Foreign journalists were not permitted to attend the proceedings, which lasted a day. Nguyen Xuan Nghia was detained at the B14 labour camp in Ha Dong province, south of Hanoi, where he was reportedly held in solitary confinement.
In March 2012, his family went to visit him in prison, only to discover that he had been transferred to a new detention facility. He is now being held in a prison in Nghe An province, Central Vietnam near to the Vietnamese border with Laos, more than 400km from their family home. This will make his family’s visits even more difficult and costly as they have to travel for two days in order to visit him.
Following her first visit to the new camp, his wife Nguyen Thi Nga reported that he was suffering from a number of health complaints, including haemorrhoids, stomach ulcers, and rheumatic inflammations. She also described how his morale had, understandably, been seriously affected by his experiences in prison, stating that he has contemplated suicide on a number of occasions.