Senators hear from human rights activists about political prisoners in Vietnam  

Ottawa, June 28, 2016

A woman from Vietnam whose husband has been imprisoned without charge in the socialist country asked for senators’ help on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 in securing his release.

Human rights activists estimate that there are currently 200 political prisoners in Vietnam, imprisoned simply for speaking their minds.

Vu Minh Khanh appeared for a special session of the Senate Committee on Human Rights to talk about ongoing human rights abuses in Vietnam.

Vu, a human rights activist herself, is seeking assistance from foreign governments to free her husband, an activist who has now spent six months in jail without trial. She has had no contact with him.

“It’s important to hear the voices of those who don’t have a voice. And in this case we’ve heard another story of a prisoner in Vietnam, and there are many like this.” said committee chair Senator Jim Munson.

Though Vu considers the outlook gloomy, she said she will not give up regardless of the cost.

Vu’s husband served prison time between 2007 and 2011 and he was also under house arrest from 2011 to 2015. Both times he was accused of promoting universal human rights, which is a breach of the penal code in Vietnam.

Protestors in Vietnam face intimidation, police assault and imprisonment without legal counsel, the committee heard. These are all breaches of Vietnam’s international treaty obligations in addition to the rights inscribed in the country’s own constitution.

Committee Deputy Chair, Senator Salma Ataullahjan, got right to the point

“How can we help?” she asked.

Hoi Trinh, a founder of human rights advocacy group Voice Vietnam, also testified.

“The biggest problem in Vietnam is that they use the criminal code to suppress dissent,” he said.

For Hoi, Canada’s foreign aid to Vietnam should come conditionally and as a function of improvements in human rights. He also recommended supporting civil groups inside Vietnam, in addition to reaching out directly to victims to put more pressure on the government.

Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, who is from Vietnam himself, also sits on the committee.

“I hope that the Canadian government will let human rights guide its bilateral relationship with Vietnam and other countries with dire human rights records. Canada can play a stronger role standing up against authoritarian regimes that publicly target legitimate dissent,” Senator Ngo said.


“It was difficult to listen to, because it seems like a never-ending story in that country. So, as a human rights committee, we again call upon the federal government to listen to these voices and to work with other like-minded countries for the release of these political prisoners.”

– Senator Jim Munson, Chair of the committee.

“We heard compelling testimony from Vu Minh Khanh. I think the human rights committee was lucky to have her come and testify before us to speak on the human rights abuses in Vietnam. As a defender of human rights throughout the world, Canada needs to take a stand and stand by her.”

– Senator Salma Ataullahjan, Deputy Chair of the committee.

Associated Links

  • Click here to watch Vietnamese human rights advocate Vu Minh Khanh testify before the Senate Committee on Human Rights.
  • Twitter: @SenateCA – follow the committee using the hashtag #RIDR

Supplementary Meeting

Senator Ngo, Member of Parliament Anne Minh Thu Quach, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Omar Alghabra attended a supplementary meeting with Vu Minh Khanh and VOICE to discuss the recent imprisonment of Nguyen Van Dai who was arrested and charged under article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code without trial.

Mr. Nguyen Van Dai’s imprisonment was brought to the attention of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stephane Dion, calling the government of Canada to ensure the safety of Mrs. Vu upon her return to Vietnam and to further raise her husband’s case.