Vietnam: Bui Thi Kim Thanh | Letter

Re: Bui Thi Kim Thanh

To: Prime Minister: Nguyen Tan Dung

From: Maegen M. Giltrow

Date: 2006-12-05

I am writing, as a member of LRWC, in response to information we have received that lawyer Bui Thi Kim Thanh is being held against her will and injected with unknown drugs, also against her will, and without medical basis. We understand that she was detained by police and is being held at Bien Hoa Mental Hospital, despite the fact that two psychiatrists have determined that she does not suffer mental illness. She is also being deprived of visitors.

We understand that Bui Thi Kim Thanh is not known to be charged with any offence, but that she works for a pro-democracy organization, as well as on behalf of individuals who seek redress from the state for confiscation of their property. Her arbitrary detention and forced treatment appear therefore to be tied to her political and professional work. The harassment of Bui Thi Kim Thanh for carrying out peaceful political activities and professional work is a violation of her rights to freedom of expression and association.

With respect, I remind you that Viet Nam has a responsibility to adopt such measures as are necessary to guarantee the life and physical safety of Bui Thi Kim Thanh. This duty arises in part from Viet Nam’s membership in the United Nations. This same responsibility also arises from many UN conventions and covenants, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees freedom from arbitrary detention and freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Furthermore, as a member of the United Nations General Assembly, Viet Nam is bound by the “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers” (welcomed by the General Assembly in 1990) which contains the following articles:

Article 16: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference”.

Article 17: “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”
We ask that the Vietnamese government apply and proceed in accordance with the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1998, and in particular Article 12(2), which creates the mandatory responsibility of member states to protect lawyers in the practice of their profession.
We are gravely concerned that Bui Thi Kim Thanh is being held and medicated against her will as retribution for her political and professional work, and without medical basis; that she is at risk of ill-treatment and even torture; and that her health is seriously at risk.
We call upon you to direct the authorities to release Bui Thi Kim Thanh from Bien Hoa Mental Hospital immediately and unconditionally, and to investigate her arbitrary detention and bring those responsible for it to justice. Please advise LRWC by mail, e-mail or fax of the actions that the government of Viet Nam is taking to ensure the present and future safety of Bui Thi Kim Thanh, and bring those responsible for her arbitrary detention to account.