September 16, 2020
Statement by Vietnam Human Rights Network and Defend the Defenders
on the Conviction of 29 Dong Tam Commune Land-Appropriation Victims
On September 14, 2020, the People’s Court of Hanoi, based on trumped-up charges, convicted 29 land-appropriation victims from Dong Tam Commune of "murder" and "resisting on-duty state officials" during the police raid in the locality in the early morning of January 9, 2020, which resulted in the murder of community leader Le Dinh Kinh by the police.
The court sentenced to death Le Dinh Kinh’s two sons, Le Dinh Cong and Le Dinh Chuc. His grandchild Le Dinh Doanh was sentenced to life imprisonment. The court also handed out sentences ranging from 15-month probation to 16-year imprisonment to the remaining 26 defendants.
The first-instance hearing lasted only 4 days, from September 7 to September 10. The court failed to uphold international fair trial standards as it accepted the irrationalities and discrepancies in the Investigation Conclusion of the Hanoi Police Department and the Indictment of the People’s Procuracy of Hanoi. Furthermore, by rejecting many of the arguments and requests from the lawyers defending the victims, the court principally denied them of legal representation and self-defense while ignored allegations of torture, forced confessions, and corporal punishment of 19 defendants, etc. In particular, the court rejected the defense lawyers’ request to summon many important witnesses, state officials, and agencies involving in the case as well as denied their requests for field experiments/crime scene reenactment, a must in all the murder cases.
For the above-mentioned reasons, the Vietnam Human Rights Network and Defend the Defenders strongly oppose the verdict declared by the People’s Court of Hanoi. We request the Vietnamese authorities to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release all 29 Dong Tam land-appropriation victims, and drop all the charges against them as well as compensate them for being detained for the past nine months;
- Conduct an independent investigation into allegations of torture of 19 Dong Tam land-appropriation victims and bring the perpetrators before the law;
- Conduct an independent investigation into the raid against Dong Tam commune that was implemented on January 9, 2020;
- Conduct an independent investigation into the death of Le Dinh Kinh and hold responsible parties accountable;
- Conduct an independent investigation into the incident in which 3 police officers were said to have died in the raid;
- Amend the land law towards ensuring land ownership to prevent authorities at all levels from grabbing land from the people as it has happened across the country for many years.
The investigation must have the participation of independent international observers. The Hanoi Police Department and the Ministry of Public Security have to recuse themselves from the investigation because of their involvement in the raid, and the investigation results must be publicized widely in Vietnamese and English.
We urge the Vietnamese people and the international community to condemn the behaviors of the Vietnamese Communist regime in the Dong Tam case.
On behalf of the Vietnam Human Rights Network: Nguyen Ba Tung, DPA, Executive Director.
On behalf of Defend the Defenders: Vu Quoc Ngu, Director.