The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) submitted an open letter to Vietnam’s Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Public Security to denounce the ongoing criminal investigation of Dang Dinh Manh under article 331 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, in relation to the legitimate exercise of his professional duties and right to freedom of expression.
The ICJ considers that Dang Dinh Manh is being subjected to persecution through undue criminal investigation that aims to impair his work as a lawyer and his right to freedom of expression protected under international human rights law and standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
Dang Dinh Manh was summoned on 21 February 2023 by the Long An Police Investigative Agency to report to the Police on 2 March 2023 for an interrogation. This followed a request from the Ministry of Public Security to potentially charge him under article 331 of the Penal Code, for allegedly “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the State, organizations and individuals” by spreading images, words and articles online through video clips.
The criminal investigation against Dang Dinh Manh appears to be related to his work representing human rights defenders, political dissidents and other clients in apparently sensitive cases, including the Tinh That Bong Lai Temple case. Dang Dinh Manh has expressed his concerns publicly through social media posts and videos about apparent due process violations by investigative agencies in the Tinh That Bong Lai Temple case.
The ICJ also expressed concern that article 331 is inconsistent with international human rights law protecting the right to freedom of expression as it is vague and overbroad, and unnecessarily and disproportionately limits the legitimate activities of human rights defenders and lawyers.
The ICJ urgently requested the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Public Security take immediate steps to:
- Cease the use of arbitrary criminal investigations against Dang Dinh Manh and other lawyers that are aimed at impairing their work as human rights lawyers and their right to freedom of expression;
- Take measures with a view to repealing or substantially amending article 331 of the Penal Code, in compliance with international human rights law that protect the right to freedom of expression and information; and
- Take all necessary measures to ensure the free exercise of the legal profession, in all circumstances, so that lawyers may exercise their legitimate professional rights and duties without fear of reprisals and free from all restrictions, including harassment through legal processes.
To download the open letter, click here.NewsOpen letters