For Immediate Release
March 1, 2013

Washington, D.C.: The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found the continued detention of three Vietnamese labor organizers, Doan Huy Chuong, Do Thi Minh Hanh, and Doan Quoc Hung, to be a violation of international law. In the attached opinion dated November 14, 2012, but only released now, the panel of five independent experts from around the world called on the Vietnamese government to release and compensate the activists.

“Independent activities associated with organizing workers are protected under international law,” said Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner. “Just as the Vietnamese government cannot persecute religious leaders or democracy activists, it cannot imprison union organizers for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of association—that is the important message of the Working Group’s opinion in this case.”

“We must remember that our work is not complete,” said Gregory K. McGillivary, of the law firm Woodley & McGillivary. “Our clients continue to suffer deplorable conditions in Vietnamese prison. Our work will not be done until the government of Vietnam recognizes the humanitarian and legal reasons that the trio should be freed and releases them from custody.”

In early 2010, police arrested Doan, Do, and Nguyen shortly after the trio worked to organize striking employees at a shoe factory and distributed leaflets outlining the workers’ demands. The government held the three organizers for eight months before charging them with threatening national security. On October 28, 2010, just 10 days after their indictment, Doan, Do, and Nguyen were sentenced to between seven and nine years in prison. The organizers did not have access to legal counsel during the closed trial and they were not permitted to speak in their own defense.

Doan, Do, and Nguyen have also been severely mistreated. After their arrest, the government held them in solitary confinement for long periods and subjected them to repeated beatings. As a result, Doan has lost the use of one hand and Do is deaf in one ear. Despite continued poor health—including rashes and liver problems—all three are forced to endure hard labor.

Freedom Now and the law firm Woodley & McGillivary represent Doan, Do, and Nguyen as their pro bono international legal counsel. The Working Group’s opinion is in response to separate petitions submitted by lawyers at Woodley & McGillivary and Mr. Lâm Chan Tho, an attorney in Canada.