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Joint Letter for HRD Nguyen Bac Truyen (for IRF Roundtable)

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

September 28, 2020

The Honorable Mike Pompeo


Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

Religious freedom and human rights advocates call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Nguyễn Bắc Truyển

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, are writing to call on the Department of State to press for the release of religious prisoner of conscience Nguyễn Bắc Truyển as part of the upcoming US-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue. He is arguably the highest-profile religious prisoner of conscience in Vietnam. He has been adopted by the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) under its religious freedom project and by Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Harley Rouda under the Defending Freedom Project of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Up until his abduction by the police, he served as the original coordinator of the Vietnam Freedom of Religion or Belief Roundtable.

Mr. Nguyễn Bắc Truyển was abducted on July 30, 2017 by the Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) authorities and secretly transferred to Hanoi. After six months held incommunicado, he was tried on the charge of "acting to overthrow the people’s government" under Article 79 of the Vietnamese Penal Code (VPC) and sentenced to eleven years in prison and then to three years of house arrest following the prison term. He is now held at Prison Camp An Điềm, about 1000 kilometers away from his wife and family.

Nguyễn Bắc Truyển, born in 1968, is a Hoa Hao Buddhist. He was arrested for the first time in 2006 and sentenced to three and a half years followed by two years of house arrest on the charge of “propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. After his release, in 2010 he joined the Vietnamese Political and Religious Prisoners Friendship Association, an organization that assists impecunious prisoners and their families. As a jurist, he provided pro-bono legal assistance to families of political prisoners, victims of land grabbing, and persecuted religious communities. From 2014 until his most recent abduction, he cooperated with the Redemptorist Order’s Justice and Peace Office as coordinator of its assistance program for disabled veterans of South Vietnam.

Nguyễn Bắc Truyển is deeply committed to the right to freedom of religion or belief. He worked to build capacity for religious communities in Vietnam so that they can fully exercise their basic rights. His inter-religious activities also aimed at strengthening the dialogue and cooperation between various religions. Until his arrest in 2017, Nguyễn Bắc Truyển coordinated the Vietnam Freedom of Religion or Belief Roundtable, a network of religious freedom advocates and members of persecuted religious and indigenous communities. He was also co-founder of Vietnam Coalition Against Torture and contributed many submissions to the UN Committee Against Torture.

Nguyễn Bắc Truyển meticulously collected evidence and interviewed victims for the compilation of submissions to the different UN mandate holders. He and his wife provided valuable assistance to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief during the Special Rapporteur’s July 2014 visit in Vietnam. His imprisonment has all the earmarks of an act of reprisal by the government for his human rights work. In his September 2019 Intimidation and Reprisals Reports, the UN Secretary General also considered the government’s travel ban imposed on Mr. Truyển’s wife, Ms. Bùi Thị Kim Phượng, to be an act of reprisal. In March 2019 she was prevented from travelling from Vietnam to Geneva, Germany, and the United States to advocate for the release of her husband.

In the latest Intimidation and Reprisal Report, released on September 15, 2020, the UN Secretary-General expressed concern regarding Nguyễn Bắc Truyển’s frail health and the lack of proper medical care in prison: “Since his arrest in July 2017, Mr. Nguyen Bac Truyen has reportedly not had a proper medical examination, faces restrictions of food and medical supplies, and his health condition has deteriorated. A petition on 18 January 2020 to the Board of Supervisors at An Diem prison requesting a medical check reportedly remains unanswered.”

Vietnam is a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The detention of Mr. Nguyễn Bắc Truyển is a violation of several of its articles, including Article 18 (right to freedom of religion or belief), Article 7 (freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment), Article 9 (right to liberty and security of the person and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention), and Article 14 (right to equality before the law; the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and to have a fair and public hearing by an impartial tribunal established by law).

On August 13 of this year, 65 current and former parliamentarians from 28 countries sent a joint letter to Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, calling for Nguyễn Bắc Truyển’s immediate and unconditional release. In the spirit of solidarity with our colleagues at the Vietnam Freedom of Religion or Belief Roundtable, we ask that the United States consider his freedom a key benchmark of human rights improvement at the upcoming human rights dialogue with Vietnam.


Boat People SOS


1. Association for the Advancement of Freedom of Religion or Belief-Vietnam (AAFoRB-VN)

2. Vietnam Coalition Against Torture

3.Buddhist Solidarity Association

4.Campaign for Uyghurs

5.Campaign to Abolish Torture in Vietnam

6.China Aid Association

7.Christian Freedom International

8.Con Dau Catholic Parishioners Association


10.Church of Scientology National Affairs Office

11.Citizen Power Initiatives for China

12.CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

13.Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA)

14.Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam

15.Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience

16.Counterparts –Vietnam Veterans Association

17.Faith & Liberty DC

18.Global Women Christian Chamber of Commerce Embassy Ministerial Alliance Sphere

19.Hoa Hao Buddhist Congregation (Central Overseas Executive Committee)

20.Hmong United for Justice

21.Human Rights First

22.Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam

23.Institute on Religion and Democracy

24.International Christian Concern

25.Junior Sacerdotal Council of the Cao Dai Religion

26.Jubilee Campaign USA

27.Law and Liberty International

28.Minh Van Foundation

29.Montagnards Stand for Justice

30.PGHH Buddhist Center, San Jose, California

31.Red Eagle Enterprises

32.Save the Persecuted Christians

33.Stefanus Alliance International

34.Stitchting Vietnam Human Rights Foundation

35.The Alliance for Enlightened Judaism

36.Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union

37.Vietnam Coalition Against Torture

38.Vietnamese American Community in San Antonio, Texas

39.Vietnamese Women for Human Rights



1.Bui Kim Phuong, wife of Nguyen Bac Truyen


2.The Most Venerable Thích Thiện Minh

26-year religious prisoner of conscience

Member of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, Vietnam

3.Pastor A Ga, Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ

Former victim of religious persecution in Vietnam

Raleigh, North Carolina

4.Matias Perttula

Director of Advocacy, International Christian Concern

5.Dr. Jianli Yang

President, Citizen Power Initiatives for China

6.Professor Thomas Kellenberg

International Human Rights Advocate

Washington, D.C.

7.Michelle Nguyen

Coordinator, Vietnam Coalition Against Torture

8.Markus Eban

Member, Montagnards Stand for Justice, Thailand

9.Y Pher Hdrue

Former religious prisoner of conscience, Vietnam

10.Rcom Ayul

Build Human Rights for Montagnards

11.Paul Nguyen

Catholic human rights advocate, Houston, Texas

12.Dr. Grant A. McClure

Commander, Counterparts –Vietnam Veterans Association

13.Michael Benge

Former POW, Counterparts –Vietnam Veterans Association

14.Hong Thi Tran

Survivor of Torture from Vietnam, Raleigh, North Carolina

15.Khanh Tran

Chief Operating Officer, BPSOS

Falls Church, Virginia

16.Thien Nguyen

Coordinator, Buddhist Solidary Association

17.Tien Nguyen

Human Rights Defender

Falls Church, Virginia

18.Van Ngo

Human Rights Defender

Silver Spring, Maryland

19.Binh Luong

Manassas, Virginia

20.Thien Tran

Missouri, Texas

21.Dr. Trong Phan

Television Commentator, Irving, TX

22.Loc Thanh Nguyen

London, UK

23.Bi V. Nguyen

Palm Harbor, Florida

24.Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang

Laureate of 2011 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award

25.Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt

Professor of Human Rights and Human Rights Policy,University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany

Former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

26.Tran Thi Nga

Former Prisoner of Conscience, Royston, Georgia

27.Vũ Hoàng Nguyên

Tra Vinh, Vietnam

28.Rev. Viet Nguyen

Parish Priest, Tampa, FL

29.Jeff Chen

Participant of IRF Roundtable, Rockville, Maryland

30.Loan Vo

Member of Buddhist Solidarity Association, Seattle, Washington

----------------------------------------------ORIGINAL LETTER----------------------------------------------

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