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Vietnam accused of using inmates as torturers

Petition says prisoners of conscience are targeted

<p>File photo: Sam D'Cruz/<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-116203840/stock-photo-hoi-an-city-in-central-vietnam.html?src=khYZU9olEvJXbdQLSGsJZQ-1-0" target="_blank">Shutterstock</a></p>

File photo: Sam D'Cruz/Shutterstock

  • Mike MacLachlan, London
  • Vietnam
  • October 7, 2013
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Prison officials in Vietnam employ “criminal offenders” to torture prisoners of conscience, a petition signed by 15 religious figures states.

The petition, signed by four Buddhist leaders, three Catholic, three Cao Dai and five Protestant, seeks the release of 14 named young people “and many other youngsters who are being detained.”

It says that officials use “power, violence and mendacity to torture prisoners of conscience with the aim to harm their bodies and most specially to break down their will.”

It demands that “the government not utilize criminal offenders to attack and torture prisoners of conscience as has been happening with the aforementioned young people, specially not utilize prisons for the purpose of corporal punishments, torture in order to … force them to confess." 

The website of the Catholic Redemptorist congregation in Vietnam on October 2 published the English-language text of the petition.

The 14 youths comprise Catholics and Protestants, the website says. It specifically asks for one of them, student Do Thi Minh Hanh, to be released on medical grounds.

“The government must have them sent to hospital for medical attention or let them out on bail so they may have their diseases and wounds treated; the case that raises most concern is Do Thi Minh Hanh,” it says.

The petition is addressed to a wide range of people, from Vietnamese parliamentarians to the United Nations, ASEAN, “governments of democratic countries” and “Vietnamese compatriots inside Vietnam and abroad.”

It says the 14 mentioned in the petition and others detained had been “doing only what the constitution does not forbid, such as distributing leaflets … writing articles on the internet promoting freedom and democracy … participating in organizations and non-communist political parties as well as defending the rights of workers and … citizens.”

They are being detained merely for “holding different political opinions,” it says.

The Redemptorists (Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer) are “one of the most vocal groups calling for justice and human rights in Vietnam,” the rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)commented at the weekend.

“However, it is significant that the petition is signed by clergy representing a number of religions,” CSW said.

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