Rights group documents extrajudicial harassment in Vietnam

February 17, 2022 GMT
FILE - Vietnam Communist party central committee holds a meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan. 31, 2021. Vietnam’s Communist government routinely obstructs people's movement and conducts other extrajudicial harassment including house arrest in its systematic repression of civil and political rights, Human Rights Watch said in a report Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. (Le Tri Dung/VNA via AP, File)
FILE - Vietnam Communist party central committee holds a meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan. 31, 2021. Vietnam’s Communist government routinely obstructs people's movement and conducts other extrajudicial harassment including house arrest in its systematic repression of civil and political rights, Human Rights Watch said in a report Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. (Le Tri Dung/VNA via AP, File)
FILE - Vietnam Communist party central committee holds a meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan. 31, 2021. Vietnam’s Communist government routinely obstructs people's movement and conducts other extrajudicial harassment including house arrest in its systematic repression of civil and political rights, Human Rights Watch said in a report Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. (Le Tri Dung/VNA via AP, File)
FILE - Vietnam Communist party central committee holds a meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan. 31, 2021. Vietnam’s Communist government routinely obstructs people's movement and conducts other extrajudicial harassment including house arrest in its systematic repression of civil and political rights, Human Rights Watch said in a report Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. (Le Tri Dung/VNA via AP, File)
FILE - Vietnam Communist party central committee holds a meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan. 31, 2021. Vietnam’s Communist government routinely obstructs people's movement and conducts other extrajudicial harassment including house arrest in its systematic repression of civil and political rights, Human Rights Watch said in a report Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. (Le Tri Dung/VNA via AP, File)

BANGKOK (AP) — More than 170 activists have been put under house arrest, blocked from traveling and sometimes assaulted by agents of the Vietnamese government in a little-noticed campaign to silence its critics, a human rights group said Thursday.

The tactics to obstruct people’s movement are “often overlooked” in reporting on the communist government’s imprisonment of dissidents and other “suppression of fundamental liberties,” Human Rights Watch said in a report.

The group said it found more than 170 people who were subject to travel bans and other pressure from 2004 to last year. They included Nguyen Tuong Thuy, 72, an army veteran who took up the cause of political prisoners.

“Security agents have harassed, intimidated, assaulted, and arbitrarily detained him, and imposed house arrest and a travel ban,” said the report. Nguyen Tuong Thuy was sentenced last year to 11 years in prison on a charge of “making, storing, disseminating, or propagandizing” anti-state information, Human Rights Watch said.

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The report cited his descriptions of how authorities violated the rights of other activists, including being fired from jobs, evicted from rented homes, physical assaults, theft, vandalism of their homes and interrogations and beatings inside police stations.

Vietnam has said it is fully committed to protecting human rights, but government comment on the new report was not immediately available on Thursday.

“The authorities employ rights-abusing tactics such as holding activists in indefinite house arrest, detention when away from home, and bans on leaving the country under fabricated national security grounds,” said Phil Robertson, the organization’s deputy Asia director.

The report said house arrest is carried out by varied methods, including hiring guards to intimidate and gluing locks, and is done preemptively, in anticipation of trouble, coinciding with important holidays, domestic political developments or the trials of political dissidents.

The restrictions on movement also include blocking people from traveling abroad. In addition to travel bans for such activities as attending human rights gatherings, activists have also been blocked from taking personal trips for purposes such as tourism or accompanying a family member for medical treatment, the report said.

It added that international travel bans had also been imposed against family members of rights activists and journalists.

“Vietnamese rights campaigners face severe government repression just because they dare to organize or attend events, or seek to travel for their work,” Robertson said. “Vietnam’s donors and trade partners should recognize this daily repression of free movement and press the government to end these paralyzing practices.”

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Vietnam has repeatedly defended its human rights record and notes its participation in the U.N.’s Universal Periodic Review process, where it defends its record on the subject and can respond to the often-critical comments of other stakeholders, such as non-governmental organizations.

“Viet Nam is fully committed to exerting continual efforts for better protection and promotion of human rights, through building on new institutional, legal and policy progresses, overcoming difficulties, realizing the ‘Enabling Government for the People’ and promoting sustainable development,” it said at its last UPR session in 2019. Reviews are held about every five years.

When Vietnam last year applied to serve on the U.N. Human Rights Council for its 2023-2025 term, Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh, then also foreign minister, declared that his country continues to “put emphasis on the protection and promotion of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of our people, even in this most difficult of times,” referring to the coronavirus pandemic.