Vietnam: ICJ calls for release of human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan after trial postponed indefinitely
The ICJ today called for the immediate release of Le Quoc Quan, after the People’s Court of Hanoi announced on 8 July 2013 the postponement of his trial, without setting any new dates for the case. The reason given for the hastily informed adjournment was that the judge had suddenly taken ill.
The ICJ considers that Le Quoc Quan’s continued detention is in violation of Vietnam’s penal law and the State’s international legal obligations.
Le Quoc Quan, a lawyer and human rights defender, was arrested on 27 December 2012 and charged for tax evasion under article 161 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code.
The postponement of the trial appears to signal that Le Quoc Quan will continue to remain in jail. Since his arrest last year, he has already been detained for more than six months.
“The continued detention of Le Quoc Quan is akin to him being punished even before the trial has commenced. This is a clear violation of his right to being presumed innocent,” said Andrew Khoo from the Malaysian Bar Council, an expert appointed by the ICJ, who had traveled to Hanoi to observe Le Quoc Quan’s trial.
On 29 December, two days after Le Quoc Quan’s arrest, his wife filed an application for bail to the police and procurator. She had also applied for release on his own recognizance. There are no specific detailed procedures spelled out in law governing bail procedures. Under article 92 of the Criminal Procedure Code, only family members are permitted to act as guarantors. To date, neither the police nor the procurator have replied to her applications.
Under article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Vietnam is a party, it should not be the general rule that persons are detained while awaiting trial, and release pending trial may only be subject to conditions to ensure appearance at the trial.
“There is no reason to believe that if released Le Quoc Quan would not appear for trial, and in any event his family has made representations to act as guarantors”, said Emerlynne Gil, the ICJ’s International Legal Adviser on Southeast Asia, who was also in Hanoi to observe the trial. “The People’s Court of Hanoi must order Le Quoc Quan’s release either on bail or his own recognizance.”
The ICJ notes that the postponement also violates Le Quoc Quan’s right to a speedy trial. Under international law, including ICCPR article 14, an accused has the right to be tried without undue delay and within a reasonable period of time. This prevents any unnecessary continuing deprivation of liberty and ensures that the interest of justice is properly served.
“We would expect that the People’s Court of Hanoi will notify promptly the public of the next date of Le Quac Quan’s trial and ensure that his right to a fair and public trial is upheld,” said Emerlynne Gil.
The ICJ looks forward to returning to Vietnam to continue monitoring this case and ensuring that the rights of Le Quoc Quan, including his right to liberty and to a fair trial, are fully respected and protected.
Ms. Emerlynne Gil, International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia, tel. no. +662 6198477; email: emerlynne.gil(a)icj.org