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Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, and Exile
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the Government continued to arrest and detain citizens arbitrarily. Some persons were arrested and detained for the peaceful expression of their political and religious views. In addition, several persons who were arrested or detained in 2002 reportedly did not return to their families (see Section 1.b.). The Criminal Code provides for various rights of detainees, including the right of the accused to have a lawyer present during interrogation; however, in practice the authorities sometimes ignored these legal safeguards. Moreover, a long-standing directive on administrative probation gives security officials broad powers to subject individuals to a form of house arrest, if they believe that a suspect is a threat to "national security" or even on less serious grounds, without trial.
The Criminal Code places a 12-month time limit on investigative detention; however, the Government sometimes detained persons for more than 1 year in that status. There is no legal limit on the time that a judge's panel (a body consisting of at least one judge and two lay assessors) has to rule on a case (see Section 1.e.); however, there is a 3-month limit for trying, dismissing, or returning a case for reinvestigation once the 12-month investigative period is ended. Prior to being formally charged, a detainee has a statutory right to notify family members, and, in most cases, police informed the family of the detainee's whereabouts. A detainee may contact a lawyer, prior to being charged, if permitted by the head of the investigating office. Following a formal charge, the detainee has a statutory right to contact an attorney; however, it was not clear that this right generally was respected in practice.
The Supreme People's Procuracy (the office which investigates cases and initiates public prosecutions) issues arrest warrants, generally at the request of police; however, police may make an arrest without a warrant on the basis of a complaint filed by any party alleging the commission of a crime. In such cases, the Procuracy must issue retroactive arrest warrants. Unless specifically authorized by an investigator, the MPS usually prohibited contact between a detainee and his lawyer as long as the procurator's office was investigating a case, which may last up to 1 year and may not entail any formal charges. Likewise, family members may visit a detainee only with the permission of the investigator. Time spent in pretrial detention usually counts toward time served upon conviction and sentencing.
Courts may sentence persons to administrative detention for a period of up to 5 years after release from prison. These provisions were enforced unevenly. Government officials used administrative probation to place persons under house arrest without trial for up to 2 years (see Section 2.d.). For example, at least three UBCV monks were sentenced to 2 years' house arrest in October and remained under house arrest at year's end.
Persons arrested for the peaceful expression of views were subject to charge under several provisions in the Criminal Code that outlaw acts against the State. On March 17, police detained democracy activist Dr. Nguyen Dan Que for providing information critical of the country to foreign journalists (see Section 2.a.). On June 18, a court in Hanoi sentenced Dr. Pham Hong Son to 13 years' imprisonment and 3 years' house arrest (see Section 2.a.). His sentence was reduced on appeal to 5 years' imprisonment. On December 31, Nguyen Vu Binh, a journalist who had been arrested in September 2002, was convicted of espionage by a court in Hanoi after he had criticized the country's border agreement with China and sent testimony on human rights issues in the country to a foreign government. Binh was sentenced to 7 years' imprisonment and 3 years' house arrest. Diplomats and foreign journalists were refused permission to attend either of the two trials.
Police picked up street children in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and held them in juvenile detention facilities in advance of the December Southeast Asia Games.
In 2002, activist Nguyen Khac Toan was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment for disseminating articles critical of the Government on the Internet.
In December 2002, police detained democracy activists Pham Que Duong and Tran Van Khue (see Section 2.a.); at year's end, they had not yet been tried. In addition, up to 19 Hmong Protestant leaders, including Mua A Ho, Cu Van Long, and Sua Song Vu, may still be detained. It was unknown whether several persons reportedly detained in previous years have been tried, including: Vo Tan Sau, Phan Thi Tiem, and Tran Thi Duyen, Le Huu Hoa, Ma Van Chinh, and Lu Seo Dieu.
The Constitution does not provide for forced exile, and the Government did not use it.
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