Prisoner of conscience attacked in prison

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Who is Nguyen Ngoc Anh?

Nguyen Ngoc Anh is a 39-year-old Vietnamese aquatic engineer, who has been imprisoned for peacefully expressing his disagreement with government policies on his personal Facebook account.

Nguyen was arrested on 30 August 2018 after he used Facebook to express his opinions on several political issues in Vietnam, including the Formosa disaster – a Vietnamese marine life disaster that took place in 2016, which caused a number of protests demanding environmental reform – as well as his thoughts on a draft law aimed at establishing three special economic zones in Vietnam.

Nguyen was detained without trial until June 2019, he was eventually convicted and sentenced on 6 June 2019 to six years in prison for “conducting propaganda against the state”.  He is currently held in Ben Tre detention centre, in southern Vietnam.

On 11 October 2019 Nguyen’s wife went to visit him and was alarmed to find her husband dragging one of his legs on the floor as he walked, a bruise on his neck, and unable to move his left arm normally. He told his wife that his cellmate had physically assaulted him, leaving him bloody and unconscious. He also told her he has been routinely subjected to mental abuse from other prisoners, including daily death threats.

One day in mid-September, when Nguyen was preparing to take a shower, another prisoner kicked him from behind with such force that he bumped his head on the wall and fainted. The prisoner then proceeded to twist Nguyen’s left hand and punch him in the head, stopping only when other prisoners intervened.

Prison authorities have failed to discipline his attacker and have yet to address the formal complaint made about the incident. Instead they have placed Nguyen in a separated cell and denied him any access to medical treatment. Rule one of the Nelson Mandela Rules states unequivocally that, “The safety and security of prisoners, staff, service providers and visitors shall be ensured at all times”.

Scope of the situation

Currently, there are more than a hundred prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, many of whom have suffered torture and other ill-treatment behind bars – including harassment, threats, intimidation and physical assault. Conditions of detention are harsh. Amnesty International often receives news and reports from the families of prisoners of conscience complaining of the poor diet, lack of healthcare, and inadequate clothing during wintertime.

The Vietnamese government is obliged to respect and protect the right of every individual under its jurisdiction, and to protect the safety and well being of those who are in its custody, in particular.

Vietnam is a state party to the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights, and the 2013 Constitution of Vietnam also guarantees the right to freedom of expression for all citizens. Vietnam is also a state party to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Photo copyright of REUTERS/Kham

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