Congressman Lowenthal, House Colleagues, Urge Magnitsky Sanctions Against Vietnamese Police Who Tortured Journalist

December 18, 2020
Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, today joined with seven House colleagues in urging the U.S. State and Treasury departments to implement Global Magnitsky sanctions against eight members of the Ha Tinh Province police force in Vietnam who tortured journalist Nguyen Van Hoa. The Magnitsky Act provides for U.S. financial and travel restriction sanctions against international human rights abusers.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Members state, “We write to express our concern about the ongoing intimidation, pressure, and arrest of journalists, independent media, and the free press in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. We are specifically concerned with the arrest and sentencing of journalist Nguyen Van Hoa, a contributor to Radio Free Asia (RFA), a part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media.”

In 2017, Vietnamese authorities arrested and sentenced Vietnamese citizen Nguyen to prison on charges of “propagandizing” against the state. Vietnamese authorities had previously beaten and confiscated Nguyen’s equipment while he was on assignment for RFA in November 2016. While he was in police custody, Van Hoa was beaten, tortured, and forced to sign a false confession against his fellow prisoner. In November 2020, Nguyen launched a hunger strike to protest conditions at his detention camp.

The letter identifies eight members of the Ha Tinh Province police force who are alleged to have beaten Van Hoa and hung him from the ceiling by his hands in order to coerce a confession. The individuals named in the letter are: Colonel Nguyen Anh Tuan, Captain Nguyen Van Sang, Lieutenant Le Anh Duc, Captain Tran Anh Duc, Colonel Nguyen Huy Chuong, Major Truong Quang Quoc, First Lieutenant Bui Xuan Dat, and Captain Nguyen Dinh Duc.

The Members’ letter concludes, “These individuals are complicit in direct human rights violations. We believe that targeted sanctions will have an impact.  At a time when the Vietnamese government is seeking to expand access to both American markets and American product, we must insist on strong protections for human rights and the rule of law. Unfortunately, this incident and others indicate that Vietnam has become less tolerant of dissent in recent years. The United States must send a clear message that increased trade and economic growth will not come at the price of democracy and freedom.”

The letter is cosigned by House Members Lou Correa (CA-46), Deb Haaland (NM-01), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Barbara Lee (CA-13), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Katie Porter (CA-45), and Harley Rouda (CA-48).

To read the full text of the letter, click here.

Congressman Lowenthal, an executive committee member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, has previously advocated for the release of Van Hoa, writing letters to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling for U.S. government action in the case, and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc calling for the release of Van Hoa. In September, Congressman Lowenthal officially adopted Van Hoa as a prisoner of conscience through the commission’s Defending Freedoms Project.

Under the Defending Freedoms Project, Congress Members seek the release or reduction of a prison sentence or the improvement of prison conditions for their adoptees, while also raising awareness about the unjust laws or policies that led to imprisonment. Due in part to Congressman Lowenthal’s advocacy since joining the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in 2013, three of the prisoners of conscience he has adopted have been released.