The United States is deeply concerned by the decision by the Hanoi People’s High Court to uphold the nine-year prison sentence of renowned Vietnamese author and journalist Pham Doan Trang. As State Department Spokesperson Ned Price noted in a statement expressing concerns over the decision, Trang is recognized internationally for her work to advance human rights and good governance in Vietnam and was a 2022 winner of the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award.
Trang was arrested in October 2020 and sentenced in December 2021 to nine years in prison under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code, which criminalizes “making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents and items against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” International human rights organizations have called Article 117 a tool to silence individuals who are critical of the government, whether they are journalists, writers, or citizens exercising their fundamental right to free expression.
The UN Working Group of Arbitrary Detention found Trang’s detention to be arbitrary and in contravention of Vietnam’s international human rights commitments and obligations. The government held Trang in pre-trial custody for a year without allowing her access to a lawyer. In the nearly two years she has been detained, Trang’s health has reportedly suffered.
Spokesperson Price said the United States “urges Vietnam to ensure adequate medical care and to allow access to Trang to assess her medical condition.”
In its most recent report on human rights conditions in Vietnam, the State Department cited NGOs that estimated as of August 2021, “authorities held between 130 and 288 persons for political reasons.” The State Department wrote, “from January 1 to November 9, authorities detained 29 and convicted 27 persons who were exercising internationally recognized human rights, such as freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.”
Spokesperson Price said, “Trang’s continued detention is the latest instance in an alarming pattern of arrests and sentencing of individuals in Vietnam for peacefully expressing their opinions. We call on the Vietnamese government to release Trang and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to exercise their right to freedom of expression, without fear of retaliation, consistent with the human rights provisions in Vietnam’s constitution and Vietnam’s international obligations and commitments.”