By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
January 13, 2008
In the endless, general discussions of international diplomacy, sometimes, it seems, absolutely nothing is accomplished.
For that reason, we urge U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who travels to Vietnam this week, to make a commitment to free Le Thi Cong Nhan, a young Ho Chi Minh City attorney in a communist Vietnam jail.
In early November, 2006, just before President George W. Bush and other heads of state from around the globe assembled in Hanoi for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC), Ms Nhan’s apartment was surrounded by communist Vietnam police. Her phones and internet were cut off. She was told she was not allowed to leave her home.
Ms Nhan, she was told, had spoken out against human rights abuses in Vietnam, one crime; and then she used the internet to spread her views, her second crime in Vietnam.
The BBC also reported, “Miss Cong Nhan’s mother was told by police that her daughter cannot leave her apartment or talk to foreigners until … after the Apec summit has finished.”
Another factor in Ms Nhan house arrest may have been this: she was scheduled to defend a British woman of Vietnamese origin potentially facing the death penalty for drug smuggling.
Despite communist Vietnam’s verbal assurances that it stands for a free and fair judicial system, defense attorneys who take positions contrary to the state’s are often in for at least ridicule and often harassed or imprisoned.
Soon after Vietnam was admitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO), on 6 March, 2007, Ms Nhan was arrested and accused of collaborating with overseas pro-democracy advocates and using the internet to spread her views.
On May 10, Ms. Nhan was tried and found guilty of “spreading propaganda intended to undermine Vietnam’s Communist government.”
About a month later the President of Vietnam, Nguyễn Minh Triết, visited with President Bush in the White House.
At their White House meeting on June 22, 2007, President Bush told Mr. Triết , “In order for relations to grow deeper, it’s important for our friends to have a strong commitment to human rights and freedom and democracy.”
Mr. Triết has shown little or no inkling of a reaction to the President of the United States’ urgings.
Left, Presidents Triết and Bush in the White House.
Ms Nhan was sentenced to four years in prison by the Hanoi People’s Court. She was also ordered to serve several years’ house arrest after the completion of her prison sentence.
So, we ask Mr. Negroponte, as the second most senior full-time U.S. diplomat, to commit to seek the immediate freedom of Ms Nhan. She is a political prisoner among many others.
If the communist government of Vietnam is serious about its pledges made before and during the APEC summit in 2006, if communist Vietnam is serious about honoring the pledges it made to gain entry into the WTO and if President Triết is serious about his pledges to President Bush when the two met in Washington D.C. in June, 2007, then the release of Ms Nhan would be a delightful, if symbolic, signal that Vietnam truly intends to become a member of the civilized community of nations.
Just today, January 13, 2008, the President of the United States said during his address in Abu Dhabi, “You cannot expect people to believe in the promise of a better future when they are jailed for peacefully petitioning their government.”
The president continued, “And you cannot stand up a modern, confident nation when you do not allow people to voice their legitimate criticisms.”
Words mean nothing unless Vietnam and the United States act upon their words — and their beliefs.
We encourage all to contact their elected representatives on this and all human rights issues.
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