NGOs Call on UN to Press Vietnam for a Fair Trial in Dong Tam Case
RFA | 09-04-2020
Eleven civil society organizations called on the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council in an open letter on Friday to condemn next week’s trial in Vietnam of 29 villagers detained after a deadly land clash near Hanoi, saying the group had only tried to defend their property against a government land grab.
During the past nine months following the arrest of the Dong Tam villagers, none of them have been allowed to see their families, said the letter addressed to U.N. Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, president of the Council, and signed by Reporters Without Borders, Brotherhood for Democracy, Viet Tan, and other human rights and democracy advocacy groups.
“They were also barred from seeing their lawyers,” the letter said.
“The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Vietnam is a signatory, enumerates in Article 14 that a fair trial entails ‘adequate time and facilities for the preparation of [their] defense and to communicate with counsel of [their] own choosing,” the NGOs' letter said.
“[But] these procedural guarantees have been consistently violated leading up to the trial of these 29 individuals, rendering claims against the defendants arbitrary.”
And though the court trying the case has announced that the trial will be open
to the public, “family members of the 29 defendants have not received paperwork
from the court allowing them to attend,” the letter said.
Dong Tam village elder Le Dinh Kinh, 84, was shot and killed by police during
the Jan. 9 raid on the village by 3,000 security officers intervening in a
long-running dispute over a military airport construction site about 25 miles
south of the capital.
Charges of murder, obstruction
The Hanoi People’s Procuracy on June 25 released indictments on 25 of the
detainees after a 20-day investigation, according to state media, accusing the
slain man’s son Le Dinh Chuc, and grandsons Le Dinh Doanh and Le Dinh Uy of
murder, with 22 more charged as being accomplices to murder.
Four others from the village were accused of obstructing officers in the performance of their duty, a charge that carries a jail sentence of between two and seven years.
Over 30 defense lawyers are expected to be present at the trial.
Writing to the Human Rights Council, signers of the Sept. 4 letter called on the U.N. to demand that Vietnam conduct a “fair and open trial” of the group and allow defendants to meet with their lawyers.
US urges transparency, justice
Reached for comment, the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam said, “We follow developments
of this nature very closely and will continue to follow the case as it moves
through the Vietnamese court system.”