PUBLIC AI Index: ASA 41/002/2009
17 June 2009
UA 155/09 Prisoner of conscience
VIET NAM Le Cong Dinh (m), human rights lawyer
Human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh was arrested at his office in Ho Chi Minh City on 13 June by Public
Security police. He has been charged with "conducting propaganda" against the state, under Article 88 of the
Penal Code. If convicted, he faces a three- to 20-year prison sentence. He is a prisoner of conscience,
detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.
The Investigation Agency of the Ministry of Public Security told a press conference the day he was arrested
that Le Cong Dinh had "connived with overseas subversives to publish documents distorting the socio-
economic policies" of the government. Officials also accused him of communicating with international media,
including the BBC and Radio Free Asia, and of conveying "distorted" information about the rule of law in Viet
Nam in the course of his work as a defence lawyer.
Le Cong Dinh is a prominent lawyer and former deputy president of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association. He
runs a private law firm in Ho Chi Minh City. In November 2007 he represented human rights lawyers Nguyen
Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, two other prominent prisoners of conscience, at the appeal court hearing
against their sentences. At the hearing he and other lawyers argued that Article 88, under which the two were
charged, is unconstitutional and contravenes international human rights treaties that Viet Nam has ratified,
such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and should therefore be reviewed.
He also represented Nguyen Hoang Hai, a blogger known as Dieu Cay, who was tried in September 2008 on
politically motivated criminal charges for writing critical articles and calling for human rights.
Le Cong Dinh has also been an outspoken critic of recent bauxite-extraction in the Central Highlands, as well
as calling for political reform in Viet Nam.
The Vietnamese authorities have sentenced at least 30 dissidents, including a number of lawyers, to long
prison terms since 2006 in an attempt to stifle freedom of expression and association. Most are supporters of
an internet-based pro-democracy movement, Bloc 8406, or other unauthorized groups calling for democracy
and human rights. The majority have been sentenced to imprisonment under the national security section of
the 1999 Penal Code, with additional sentences of up to five years of house arrest on release from prison. An
unknown number of dissidents are in custody awaiting trial.
Articles of the Penal Code used to criminalize peaceful political dissent include Article 80 (Spying), 87
(Undermining the unity policy), and 88 (Conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam).
In May 2009, the UN Human Rights Council considered Viet Nam under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
Viet Nam rejected the recommendations of other states to allow greater freedom of expression and to reform
national security laws which limit freedom of expression, among others.