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US lawyers fight to free unionists

Justice sought for activists jailed in in 2010

  • Mike MacLachlan, London
  • International
  • October 12, 2012
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A Washington law firm has submitted a petition to the United Nations on behalf of three Vietnamese union activists jailed since February 2010.

The firm, Woodley & McGillivary, are working on a pro bono basis in consultation with the US-based group Freedom Now.

Its petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention seeks a ruling that the detention of Doan Huy Chuong, Do Thi Minh Hanh and Nguyen Hoang Quoc is “arbitrary and a violation of international law.”

The three were arrested in January 2010 after they organised a strike at the My Phong shoe factory in Tra Vinh province, southern Vietnam.

According to a Freedom Now statement yesterday, the detainees were held in solitary confinement without charge for eight months before being charged with “threatening national security.”

At their trial they were not allowed legal counsel or the opportunity to speak in their own defense, Freedom Now said. Doan and Do were jailed for seven years and Nguyen for nine.

Freedom Now claims they have been repeatedly beaten and forced to endure hard labor.

“By imprisoning Doan, Do and Nguyen in response to their legitimate activities as union organizers, the Vietnamese government continues to violate their fundamental rights,” said Maran Turner, Freedom Now’s executive director, in a statement yesterday.

“We call on the government to immediately and unconditionally release them and cease its persecution of independent trade unionists.”

Independent unions are outlawed in Vietnam. Instead, all unions must be registered and affiliated with the Community Party-controlled Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, according to Human Rights Watch.

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