The OHCHR Regional Office also expressed concern about the conduct of the hearing, and its respect for the principle of fair trial in line with international law.
On Wednesday, Vinh (also known Anh Ba Sam) was sentenced to five years in jail, while Thuy was handed a three-year sentence. The pair, who were detained in 2014, denied the charges brought against them under article 258 of the Penal Code that forbids disseminating information deemed “to infringe upon the interests of the State”.
Before the trial, the OHCHR Regional Office expressed concerns about the case to Vietnamese authorities, citing in particular the vagueness of the charges provided under article 258 which prohibits “abuse of democratic freedoms”. The Office also informed the Government that under the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights (ICCPR), which Vietnam ratified in 1982, an individual has the right to exercise fundamental freedoms.
“We urge the Vietnamese government to stop convictions under this provision, and other similarly vague ones, as they run contrary to the country’s international human right obligations,” said Laurent Meillan, OHCHR’s acting regional representative.
The UN Human Rights Office also expressed concern about the decision by authorities to restrict access to the hearing. Under ICCPR law, defendants are entitled “to a fair and public hearing”, failure of which could result in their detention being considered arbitrary.
“We urge the Vietnamese Government to cease prosecution of individuals merely for expressing an opinion, and call on authorities to immediately release other bloggers and activists held on similar charges,” said Meillan.