Washington, D.C. – On October 29, 2019, Freedom Now and Dechert LLP filed a petition with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Vietnamese blogger Ho Van Hai. Freedom Now and Dechert argue that Vietnam’s continued detention of Dr. Ho violates the government’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“On November 2, Ho Van Hai will have spent three years wrongfully detained. His imprisonment is emblematic of Vietnam’s intensifying crackdown on online expression and the rapid deterioration of internet freedoms,” said Freedom Now Program Officer Karl Horberg. “The government’s continued imprisonment of Dr. Ho violates his fundamental human rights including his right to freedom of expression; we are confident that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will come to the same conclusion. Freedom Now calls on the Vietnamese government to immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Ho.”
Prior to his arrest, Dr. Ho worked as a medical doctor and operated the private Asia Polyclinic. He was also a blogger and actively posted on Facebook and his blog under the names “BSHoHo” and “DrHoHo.” He posted about corruption in Vietnam’s one-party Communist government and the Formosa environmental disaster.
Dr. Ho was arrested on November 2, 2016 at his clinic by the Ho Chi Minh City Police after they searched his computer and found 36 articles “disseminating anti-state information.”
His trial began on February 1, 2018—fifteen months after his initial arrest—and lasted one day. The trial was replete with procedural violations. It was held in secret and he was not able to hire a lawyer to defend him. He was charged under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code for conducting propaganda against the state. The Ho Chi Minh City Police alleged Dr. Ho disseminated “distorted” information that caused the public to lose trust in the government. A spokesman for the Ho Chi Minh City police, said police officials had been monitoring Dr. Ho’s online activities before his arrest
The court sentenced Dr. Ho to four years in prison and an additional two years of house arrest. Dr. Ho has been held in Chi Hoa prison since December 2017. He suffers from several chronic health problems, including high blood pressure and diabetes. Due to the conditions at the prison and lack of adequate medical treatment, Dr. Ho’s health has deteriorated rapidly.