Nguyen Van Dai is a Vietnamese human rights lawyer who has provided legal advice and representation to victims of human rights abuses, including victims of violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), across Vietnam. His work has led to him being repeatedly harassed and attacked by individuals working for the authorities.
Dai spent four years in prison from May 2007 to March 2011, followed by a further four years under house arrest. In December 2015, just months after Dai had completed his house arrest sentence, he and his colleague were taken into police custody once again as he was preparing to meet European Union representatives who were in Hanoi for the annual EU-Vietnam human rights dialogue.
Dai subsequently spent a further two and a half years in prison before being released to exile Germany in June 2018. Last year he visited the UK and told CSW his story in his own words. Watch the video below:
Nguyen Van Dai’s case remains emblematic of the harsh treatment faced by religious minorities and human rights defenders in Vietnam. Reports continue to emerge of severe violations of FoRB against every major religious community in the country, including Buddhists, Catholics, Cao Daists, Hoa Hao Buddhists and Protestants. Furthermore, NOW! Campaign estimates that Vietnam currently holds over 250 prisoners of conscience.
The international community must make greater efforts to hold Vietnam to account for these violations. Earlier this month the United Kingdom (UK) marked the 10th anniversary of the UK-Vietnam strategic partnership with a visit to the country. In Brussels, the European Union (EU) and Vietnam have a regular human rights dialogue where issues and cases of concern are raised. These close relationships present valuable opportunities to stand up to Vietnam and hold the government to account for its treatment of religious minorities and human rights activists like Nguyen Van Dai.