Vietnam holds 97 prisoners of conscience: Amnesty

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Ho Chi Minh, April 4 (IANS) Amnesty International on Wednesday released a report revealing that at least 97 people in Vietnam were held as prisoners of conscience, many of whom are kept incommunicado in squalid conditions and routinely subjected to torture.

Among the prisoners were human rights defenders, lawyers, bloggers and environmental and social activists who received lengthy jail sentences despite only resorting to peaceful means, Amnesty was quoted as saying Efe news.

“Vietnam is one of Southeast Asia’s most prolific jailers of peaceful activists,” Amnesty’s Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, James Gomez, said.

“What is worse is that this number is likely an underestimation. It is impossible to know the real figure, given the shroud of secrecy the Vietnamese authorities operate under,” he added.

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According to Amnesty, the prisoners were targeted and arrested for organising protests against the communist government or for disseminating information alternative to that promoted by the regime.

In addition to torture, including beatings and electrocutions, these prisoners were often held in solitary confinement and denied access to lawyers and family members.

“Vietnam must immediately release everyone who has been jailed for nothing but peacefully speaking their minds, and take their obligation to respect human rights for everyone seriously,” Gomez said.

–IANS

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