Family members of a political prisoner who was recently beaten and fed human waste at one of Vietnam’s most notorious prisons have filed a petition demanding an end to inhumane treatment of inmates at the facility.
The petition alleges that at the Xuan Loc Penitentiary in Dong Nai province, where Nguyen Van Duc Do is serving an 11-year sentence, guards tortured him for requesting time on weekends to sunbathe.
Nguyen, incarcerated since 2016 for “activities aimed at overthrowing the government,” alerted his family to his inhumane treatment over the phone on June 12.
“After being physically assaulted, my brother was then held in an isolation cell, chained for two days and one night, making his legs swollen and possibly breaking his ligaments,” Nguyen’s brother Nguyen Van Duc An wrote in the petition.
“My brother has requested medical treatment but has been denied. In addition, during his time in isolation, his food ration was mixed with feces.”
As of June 23, when the petition was signed, Nguyen had not received medical treatment. According to the petition he is still using funds sent by his family to purchase food at the prison.
RFA reported in Oct. 2019 that Nguyen began a hunger strike to protest food prices at the prison, joining several others at the facility who had stopped eating after being subject to various forms of mistreatment.
According to a friend interviewed in that report, political prisoners at Xuan Loc were being charged four or five times higher for food than other prisoners there.
Arrested in November 2016, Nguyen and four other activists were convicted on Oct. 5, 2018 in a Ho Chi Minh City court after being found guilty in a one-day trial of involvement in a political group that authorities deemed to have challenged Vietnam’s Communist one-party system.
The group had been charged under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, one of a set of vague provisions in the law used to detain writers, activists, and bloggers, and had been held without trial for almost two years.
Authorities said their group, the Vietnam National Self-Determination Coalition, had knowingly worked to damage the image and policies of the country’s ruling Communist Party.
The group had previously been active in protesting the government’s handling of a massive chemical spill in April 2016 that devastated the country’s central coast, leaving fishermen and tourism workers jobless in four central provinces.
Group leader Luu Van Vinh was given 15 years. Nguyen Quoc Hoan was sentenced to 13 years, Nguyen Van Duc Do to 11 years, Tu Cong Nghia to 10 years, and Phan Trung to 8 years.
Their sentences were upheld on appeal on March 18, 2019.
RFA has over the past several years documented inhumane living conditions and torture at Xuan Loc, which lies northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.
In 2011 the wife of jailed blogger Nguyen Van Hai told RFA that prison authorities informed her that her husband had lost his arm at the prison without elaborating.
In 2013, about 70 prisoners there rioted and took hostage the prison’s chief. Sources said that many of the political prisoners at Xuan Loc were subject to harsh treatment to break their spirits and force confessions.
In 2014, Huynh Anh Tri, who had just finished a 14-year sentence at Xuan Loc, told RFA he contracted HIV at the prison after being forced to share razors with other inmates.
In May of this year, guards at the facility beat six political prisoners and placed them in solitary because they asked for more time working outside on weekends.
The 88 Project, an Illinois-based NGO that tracks political prisoners, found that last year Vietnam arrested 41 people for peaceful activism and tried 61 for “national security” crimes.
In addition the 88 Project documented 96 incidents of activists being harassed, and 16 cases of torture of political prisoners.
“Vietnam has failed to uphold its international commitments made during its [UN Human Rights Council] 2019 Universal Periodic Review,” the 88 Project said in the 2019 Report on Political Prisoners and Activists at Risk in Vietnam.
“The crackdown on dissent shows no signs of slowing down in 2020, and it is highly unlikely that Vietnam will fulfill its human rights obligations moving forward,” it added.
Dissent is not tolerated in the communist nation, and authorities routinely use a set of vague provisions in the penal code to detain dozens of writers and bloggers.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
Originally published by Radio Free Asia.