NEW YORK (October 10, 2017) — On October 6, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) submitted an urgent appeal to the United Nations special rapporteur on torture on behalf of blogger and activist Ngọc Như Quỳnh Nguyễn, also known as Me Nam (“Mother Mushroom”). HRF called on the special rapporteur to urge the Vietnamese government to end the physical and mental abuse against Nguyễn, a blogger and government critic who was sentenced, at the end of June, to 10 years in prison on the charge of “conducting anti-State propaganda.” Following Nguyễn’s sentencing, her mother observed during prison visits that her daughter appeared to be extremely sensitive to light and physically ill. However, prison guards prevented Nguyễn and her mother from discussing Nguyễn’s health condition during visitation.
“Ms. Nguyễn is one of the most prominent dissident bloggers in Vietnam. She did nothing more than peacefully call for democratic reforms and criticize government policies. It is horrific enough that Ms. Nguyễn has had her freedom taken away for her nonviolent advocacy. But what’s more, she is now being treated inhumanely in prison and deprived of competent medical care,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “Ms. Nguyễn was not supposed to be in prison in the first place. The Communist regime in Vietnam must vacate her wrongful conviction and release her to reunite with her family,” said Halvorssen.
The government permits Nguyễn’s family to contact her only twice each month, and allows only one out of the two times to be an in-person visit. Prison officials must pre-approve the visits and monitor them heavily. On three separate occasions when Nguyễn’s mother visited her in prison, she observed that Nguyễn was very pale and highly sensitive to light. She suspects that Nguyễn is being kept in a dark space without daylight for prolonged periods of time. Nguyễn’s hands also appeared to be very stiff. She suffered from an abdominal tumor prior to her arrest, and she has not been permitted to access her usual medications or request a medical leave for follow-up exams. Nguyễn was given medications in prison, but she was not informed of the names of the medications or the results of her in-prison medical exams. When Nguyễn’s mother attempted to inquire into her health condition, prison guards threatened that they would not allow her to visit her daughter again.
During her incommunicado pre-trial detention, Nguyễn was denied necessities such as sanitary pads and underwear for 7 months. She was given contaminated food, and for one week was only allowed to eat spinach and tainted fish. For the entire duration of her pre-trial detention, Nguyễn was kept in solitary confinement. In a May 2017 opinion, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Nguyễn’s detention to be arbitrary and in violation of international law.
“The ill-treatment prison officials have inflicted upon her constitutes cruel and inhuman treatment as defined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Moreover, the abuse may amount to torture due to the severe physical and emotional suffering that it has caused her,” said Joy Park, international legal associate at HRF. “Vietnam became a signatory to the Convention Against Torture in 2013 and subsequently ratified it in 2015. As a signatory, Vietnam must eliminate the practice of torture and inhuman treatment, and it can start by making sure Ms. Nguyễn is treated with dignity while wrongfully imprisoned.”
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
Urge the Vietnamese government to stop the abuse against Ngọc Như Quỳnh Nguyễn and to ensure that she is treated humanely in prison.
Nguyen Xuan Phuc
Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Permanent Mission of Vietnam to the United Nations
Tel: (212) 644-0594