Amnesty International slammed Vietnam’s recent crackdown on domestic critics, saying the nation is becoming one of Southeast Asia’s largest prisons for human rights defenders and other activists, at the launch of Amnesty’s report on government crackdowns on Thursday.
At least 65 dissidents have been sentenced to long prison terms in trials that failed to meet international standards, an Amnesty report said.
Amnesty identified 75 people as prisoners of conscience and called for their release.
“The government’s alarming clampdown on free speech has to end,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Vietnam researcher, in a statement.
“Vietnam is fast turning into one of Southeast Asia’s largest prisons for human rights defenders and other activists,” he said.
Activists and bloggers brave enough to criticize the government have been jailed, even though free speech is guaranteed in the constitution.
Observers say there has been a sharp increase in arrests and prison terms for critics of Vietnam’s one-party, communist rule in recent years, said a report.
This is alarming to activists as well as Western governments, particularly because Vietnam is seeking a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2014 to 2016 term.
Amnesty’s report said those arrested include bloggers, labor and land rights activists, human rights defenders and those calling for reform, as well as members of religious groups.
“Prisoners of conscience in Vietnam face arbitrary pre-trial detention for several months, are held incommunicado without access to family and lawyers, and are subsequently sentenced after unfair trials to prison terms ranging from two to 20 years or even, in some cases, life imprisonment,” the report said.
“Many are held in harsh conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, with some of them subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, such as beatings by security officials or other prisoners,” the report added.
Amnesty also voiced concern over a controversial new internet law introduced by the Vietnamese government on Sept. 1 this year.
The law demands all foreign websites have at least one server in Vietnam and it outlaws the posting of content on the Internet that harms national security and opposes the state. It appears to ban the online sharing of news articles, but does not elaborate on what constitutes a breach, said a report.