PETITION TO FREE OVER 350 DEGAR PRISONERS AND TO OPEN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS TO THE WORLD


To: Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Tran Dung
       President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Minh Triet
       General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party Nong Duc Manh

CC: UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
       UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance
       UN Special Rapporteur on Torture
       US Department of State
       US International Commission of Religious Freedom
       European Commission Commission External Relations Commissioner
       President of Political Groups at the European Parliament

This petition concerns the situation of the indigenous Degar peoples of Vietnam’s Central Highlands (known also by the French colonial name of Montagnards) their desire for freedom and equality for all citizens in Vietnam.The spirit of this petition however, while conveys human rights, justice, democratic values and equality to all the oppressed citizens of Vietnam regardless of race, religious or political affiliation, focuses on the estimated 350 Degar peoples who have been unjustly imprisoned in Vietnam since 2001 for non violent acts, relating to participation in peaceful political and religious activities, for publicly speaking out on the lack of human rights in Vietnam, for being members of Christian house churches or for seeking asylum by fleeing to Cambodia.

A number of these prisoners have been also identified by Human Rights Watch, see http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2006/06/14/vietna13542.htm and many were severely tortured with some dieing from abuse. See:  http://www.montagnard-foundation.org/homepage.html for specific accounts of Degars incurring crippling injuries from torture.

Untold numbers of Degar people over the years have been tortured while the Vietnamese government tightly controls the central highlands to prevent such information from reaching the international community. Moreover the identified list of prisoners does not include all the Montagnards who have been missing from their homes, since 2001 and who might have been killed or imprisoned secretly.

We the undersigned call on the above named Vietnamese Government authorities to: urgently:

1.Release from Vietnamese prisons all of the Degar prisoners imprisoned for their political or religious activities, starting with the estimated 350 identified and establish a permanent solution to address the issue of the control over indigenous lands and of religious freedom;
2.Repeal Directive 31/CP, which permits authorities to arrest and imprison citizens for two years without charge;
3.Cease the practice of torturing of Degar people by police and military forces, which has been implemented through the use of electric shock torture, beatings and the restrictions of food allocation and the denying adequate medical treatment whilst in prison;
4.Permit international monitors and medical teams to have unhindered access to the central highlands.

Sincerely
The undersigned

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