VNTB - Prisoner Persecution: From Visitation Perspective

Minh Chau (VNTB) Those jailed on charges of “Taking advantage of democracy freedoms, jeopardizing State interests, legal rights and interests of organizations …..”, “Overthrowing the people’s administration” are in reality subject to plights of serving their sentences in the north or central Vietnam if they are southerners, and vice versa.

In accordance of the Enforcement Law of the Penal Code, signed by the National Assembly Chair and took effect on 17th June, 2010, “southern prisoners sent to the north” not only shows signs of “prisoner persecution” but also contradicts some contents of the Enforcement Law of the Penal Code.

Being moved from jail to jail is meant to be a form of punishment, so to speak, as the Ministry of Public Security directly manages a system of prisons nationwide. However, as mentioned above, those belonging to crimes related to “breaching national security, or taking advantage of democracy freedoms” are always detained in facilities far from home – from hundreds to thousands of kilometers away. This is seen as a form of punishment for both prisoners and their families during monthly visits.


Several families have claimed that the transfers of northern prisoners to the south and southern ones to the north cause a lot of hardship and their money ran out after visits. The law of course allows family members to send personal belongings, foodstuff, and even money to the imprisoned via postal services. Nonetheless, seeing their family members in person would boost morale of both prisoners and their families, as stipulated in Article 4.8 of the Enforcement Law to guarantee the involvement of families in “re-educating” those serving their sentences.

Ms. Nguyen Kim Thanh, wife of prisoner of conscience Truong Minh Duc, fighting back tears of frustration, recounts: “At Nam Ha prison, families may not send homemade foods to their members; instead, they have to send in money so that the detained can buy things at exorbitant prices in the prison’s canteen …..and worse still, their members are supposed to wear prison warm clothes instead of clothing sent from home…. So, how can the prisoners put up with the chilly weather in northern Vietnam? It really hurts that they are seen wearing prison clothes laboring in the bitterly cold weather chilling them to the bone. How can they bear….? No matter how serious their offenses are, they are also human ………”

Truong Minh Duc, born in Kien Giang province in 1960, is used to the warm weather in the south, but has to serve his sentence in the north whose winter has turned his plight into one similar to sentences of hard labor often seen in movies.

The question raised is that why do the authorities persecute them so badly while, in accordance with the law, it is completely possible for the convicted to serve their sentences right in their locality?

According to Article 4 concerning principles of Law of Penal Code Enforcement, the serving of a sentence must at the same time meet the requirements which are supposed to be (1) legally right; (2) to ensure the State interests; (3) legal rights and interests of organizations, individuals. ……… Article 4 guarantees socialist humanity; respects human dignity, legal rights and interests of the person serving the sentence.” Thus, “a southerner imprisoned in the north” is against Article 4.8 that stipulates “ensures the involvement of organizations, individuals and families in the re-education of the prisoner.”

What do the authorities stand to benefit from when “a southerner jailed in the north”, if this is not a form of punishment not required by the law ?

Article 6 of the Enforcement Law, with regard to “Supervision of law enforcement”- according to the Penal code - stipulates that “ National Assembly, People’s Committees, and Vietnamese Fatherland Front supervise activities of government agencies, organizations during the process of law enforcement and other organizations involved in law enforcement in accordance with the law.”

Therefore, it is the local People’s Committees, Vietnamese Fatherland Front of those “southerners imprisoned in the north” that really understand the responsibilities to defend and supervise voters who elect them by ballot.

“To ensure socialist humanity, respect human integrity, legal rights and interests of those serving their sentences” will have true meanings if prisoners such as Truong Minh Duc, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Nguyen Dang Minh Man, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Tran Thi Xuan, Tran Thi Nga etc. are entitled to choose to serve their sentences right in their localities where they live as reflexed in the enforcement law principles of the Penal Code.

Note:

[*] Mr. Truong Minh Duc was sentenced to 13 years in prison and 5 years on probation in the April 5th 2018 trial in Hanoi together with 5 other members (or ex-members) of the “Democracy Brotherhood”, on charges relating to Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code concerning “activities to overthrow the government.”

Translated by Kate Chesterson - Source: VNTB

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