Viet Nam: Detention of elderly prisoners of conscience is legally and morally wrong

The men are detained purely for their political and religious beliefs, and there are serious concerns about their conditions of detention and lack of access to medical care.

In a special report published today, In place of veneration, incarceration: Elderly prisoners of conscience, Amnesty International documents that none of the men, who are aged between 61 and 86 years, have ever advocated violence, yet many have been subjected to more than two decades of detention. Those under house arrest are without the right to question their detention in court. Some are suffering from serious health problems, and there are reports that prison authorities have even withheld medication provided by prisoners' families.

Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen, said:

'Locking up old men for years on end for nothing more than speaking out against government policies is unequivocally legally and morally wrong.

'Societies are legitimately judged on how they treat their more vulnerable members, including the elderly. These prisoners should be freed immediately and allowed to return to their families and friends to live out their remaining years with the dignity and respect they deserve.'

Amnesty International is very concerned about the treatment of prisoners in Viet Nam. The organisation has documented numerous cases of torture and inhuman treatment of prisoners, shackling, prolonged solitary confinement, denial of access to adequate medical care and nutrition, and lack of access to family.

Nguyen Dinh Huy, 71, a former English and History professor, has spent 26 of the last 28 years in prison. He is married with three Children's rights and is reported to be suffering from Parkinson's Disease. Nguyen was arrested in November 1993 for planning a conference on democracy and human rights and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. He had previously been detained for 're-education' without charge or trial for 17 years before his release in January 1992.

Dr Nguyen Dan Que, 61, has been detained in incommunicado detention since March 2003 after he issued a statement which was published abroad about the lack of freedom of information in Viet Nam. He is facing charges of 'spying' which carry a lengthy prison term, and possible the death penalty. He has previously spent a total of 18 years in prison for exercising his right to freedom of expression and association. Dr Nguyen Dan Que suffers from health problems requiring medication.

The Venerable Thich Huyen Quang, an 86-year-old Buddhist monk, has spent most of the years since 1977 under house arrest because of his outspoken defence of human rights and in particular the right to practise religion freely.

For the full text of the report visit: http://www.web.amnesty.org/library/index/engasa410322003

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