Vietnamese authorities treat human rights defenders as “enemies of the State”. In Vietnam, there is no independent, privately-run media – domestic newspapers, television and radio stations are strictly controlled by the state. Internet communication is also strictly controlled and restricted. HRDs working for accountability and democracy receive accusations of being “foreign spies or agents”, “traitors”, or “violators of public order and peace”. HRDS are also subjected to intimidation, threats, interrogation, harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention. When put on trial, they are very often sentenced to heavy jail terms for their human rights work, and mistreated in prison.
Provisions of the Penal Code related to national security are regularly used to stifle human rights activities. Common charges against human rights defenders include “conducting propaganda,” “spying” and “undermining the unity policy.” Many defenders are victims of arbitrary detention and criminalisation. Most often they are not informed of the reasons for their arrest or why their request of bail is denied. Many have been charged under the allegation that they are planning to overthrow the Communist Party and are sentenced to lengthy jail terms.
Family members of arrested human rights defenders are not usually informed of their whereabouts, and detained HRDs also do not have access to lawyers and families until many weeks after their arrest. At times detained HRDs are intentionally transferred to remote locations, thus making it more difficult for their families to visit them. Human rights lawyers who represent human rights defenders or communities affected by human rights violations are often abused and disbarred from their respective bar association.