Vietnam: Justice for the People of Dong Tam | Update and video

Previous LRWC Joint Letter (Link to post and PDF)

LRWC is monitoring ongoing violation of fair trial rights of citizens of Dong Tam, Vietnam, several of whom have been sentenced to the death penalty or lengthy prison sentences in an unfair trial and appeal hearing that upheld the sentences in March 2021. Lawyers for the defendants were obstructed during advocacy for their clients at both the trial and the appeal.

LRWC’s Executive Director, Catherine Morris, participated in a video interview about the case produced by Viet Tan. “People have been sentenced to the death penalty in an obviously unfair trial and appeal in a case where the facts are far from clear,” said Ms. Morris. “There appears to have been no investigation of allegations of police violence and misconduct in this case. The trial and appeal courts appear to have failed to elicit reliable information about what happened in the raid in Dong Tam in January 2020.”

The case against the Dong Tam villagers arose after a violent police raid on the village of Dong Tam which has been protesting military construction on a site near Hanoi where the local people of Dong Tam are at risk of dispossession of their farm lands. Three police officers were killed during the raid, and one 84-year old villager, Le Dinh Kinh, was shot dead by police.

LRWC signed a joint letter on 8 October 2020 to the government of Vietnam to express grave concern about the trial held from September 7 to 14, 2020. The rights of the defense lawyers and the Dong Tam citizens were violated throughout the trial. For example:

  • Defense lawyers had no access to their clients until indictment, and thereafter only in the presence of prison guards, violating the principle of lawyer-client confidentiality.
  • The case files were not accessible to defense lawyers until a few days before the trial, and only after the Hanoi Bar Association intervened and requested such access.
  • The families of the defendants were prevented from attending the trial.
  • At the start of the trial a “documentary” film produced by the Ministry of Public Security was publicly broadcast to suggest the guilt of the accused.
  • 19 of the 29 defendants alleged that they were tortured in order to obtain forced confessions.
  • The intimidation and harassment of defense lawyers inside and outside of the Hanoi court was carried out by members of the Public Security.
  • The court refused defense lawyers’ request to bring certain witnesses to the stand.
  • There was inadequate information presented to shed light on the circumstances of the death of Mr. Le Dinh Kinh and the three police officers.
  • Vietnam’s independent reporters and foreign journalists have been kept away from the court’s hearings, violating the fundamental principle of open debate.