FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 19, 2023
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International Coalition of Climate Justice and Human Rights Organizations to Launch Peaceful, Solidarity Hunger Strike Campaign with Bach May 24 – June 24 and Echo Call for Immediate Release from Prison
The UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention just released an opinion regarding the imprisonment of Vietnamese environmental lawyer, Mr. Dang Dinh Bach (“Bach”), finding a “violation of international law” and concerns about a “systemic problem with arbitrary detention” of environmental defenders in Vietnam.
This opinion was released just days before an international coalition of climate justice and human rights organizations will launch a one-month solidarity relay hunger strike leading up to June 24 – the two-year anniversary of Bach’s arrest – when he said he will start his own hunger strike to the death to protest his innocence. This will be conducted in the spirit of peaceful protest, per Bach’s request.
Bach is serving a five-year prison sentence in Vietnam on trumped-up tax evasion charges after advocating for the country’s movement away from coal. He is one of four climate leaders who have been imprisoned in Vietnam in the last few years, indicating an ongoing and highly concerning trend. International renowned climate leader and Goldman Environmental Prize winner, Ms. Nguy Thi Khanh, was arrested on similar charges and released just last week after serving 16 months in prison.
“Today’s United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention opinion directs the Vietnamese government to release Bach immediately and issue reparations,” said Kate Holcombe, Managing Attorney of the Defending Defenders Program at Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW). “The Working Group took a hard look at Bach’s case and found that his arrest has no legal basis and violates his fundamental rights to freedom of expression and association. It also found that his right to a fair trial was violated and that he is being discriminated against for his environmental activism.”
On Wednesday, May 24 a global “relay hunger strike” – in which at least one organization per day will strike in solidarity with Bach – will begin, leading up to June 24, when organizations and individuals standing in solidarity with Bach will all strike together. Participating groups are from the United States, Brazil, Thailand, Spain, Palestine, South Africa, and more countries around the world. Many are part of the Global Network of Movement Lawyers, of which Bach’s organization was a part before it was forced to shut down. A sign-on letter will also be released on May 24 calling for Bach’s release and hoping he will not have to begin a hunger strike himself.
The full list of participating organizations, sign-on letter, and interviews with the campaign’s organizers are available upon request.
The unjust imprisonments of climate leaders in Vietnam have all ironically occurred in the wake of the Vietnamese government’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 and the $15.5 billion deal announced in December by the U.K., U.S., and other governments to support a Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) in Vietnam. Right now, the JETP implementation plan is being developed, and the coalition supporting Bach is urging decision-makers to ensure that civil society in Vietnam is welcome to participate meaningfully in this process without the threat of arrest.
“We cannot achieve a just energy transition with climate leaders like Bach in jail,” said Meena Jagannath, Coordinator of the Global Network of Movement Lawyers at Movement Law Lab. “It’s crucial for human rights lawyers and environmental defenders to stand up worldwide for our colleague in Vietnam. This kind of solidarity is vitally important for the future of the region and the planet.”
Bach dedicated his life to improving the health and well-being of marginalized communities throughout Vietnam and worked tirelessly to limit pollutants such as plastic, asbestos, and coal.
“I have witnessed so many painful stories of poverty and terrible diseases that weigh on abused communities in Vietnam,” said Bach in a recent statement from prison. “They are deprived of their land and livelihoods and do not have opportunities to speak out for justice and the right to be human in the face of environmental pollution, especially in places with coal-fired power plants across the country. In order to conceal the truth and threaten the voices of people, the Vietnamese authorities have arrested, convicted and unjustly detained environmental and human rights activists in defiance of national and international law.”
More information about Bach and the hunger strike campaign can be found at www.standwithbach.org.