GENEVA (30 June 2017) – Viet Nam must end what appears to be a pattern of targeting environmental defenders, UN human rights experts* have urged after the jailing of a popular blogger.
Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, an environmental human rights defender known as Mother Mushroom, was taken to court by the Government for spreading anti-State propaganda, after writing blogs critical of the authorities. She was jailed for 10 years on 29 June after a one-day trial, which followed nine months of detention.
“This was little short of a show trial, designed to intimidate other environmental activists,” the experts said. “Her detention was arbitrary. The trial did not meet international standards. She has been denied her fundamental right to due process,” the experts said.
“She has done no more than promote human rights through social media, and protect the environment from harm. In no country, including Viet Nam, should this be regarded as a crime. Mother Mushroom should be cleared of the propaganda crime and be immediately released.”
Ms. Quynh and several other environmental defenders have been targeted for highlighting the damage caused when toxic waste was discharged from the Formosa steel plant in Ha Tinh in April 2016. The incident polluted local waterways, killed many fish and caused grave environmental damage to the local ecosystem.
“The sentencing of Mother Mushroom and attacks against other human rights defenders appear to be retaliation for their legitimate environmental human rights work in the wake of the Formosa disaster in Viet Nam,” the experts said.
“We are concerned that the retaliation against environmental defenders through arrest, detention and harassment are not isolated incidents, but are part of a broader pattern of human rights violations targeted at activists who have tried to help the Formosa victims.”
“We fear that the Government is increasingly targeting bloggers and the organizers of peaceful protests to deter wider legitimate civic and environmental activism,” they said.
The experts expressed concern that their earlier pleas for Ms. Quynh’s release were not heeded, even though they believed her prolonged detention was linked to her exercise of the right to freedom of expression on a matter of public interest.
They further stressed that last month the UN working group on arbitrary detention found that her deprivation was arbitrary, and requested the Government to immediately release her and provide compensation.
“This sentence is the culmination of eight years of continuous harassment suffered by Ms. Quynh, including frequent travel bans, intimidation, physical assaults, threats and hindrance from joining peaceful protests,” the experts said.
The experts have been in contact with the Government of Viet Nam about the situation.