Campaigners urged the UN Human Rights Council Friday to take Vietnam to task over its jailing of dozens of cyber-dissidents, claiming Hanoi was in breach of international law.
"We call upon the Council to press Vietnam to put an end to this repression," said Vo Van Ai, speaking on behalf of Vietnamese campaigners and the International Federation of Human Rights.
In a speech to the UN body -- which is halfway through a monthlong session addressing a raft of global rights concerns -- he said a total of 32 bloggers and other cyber-dissidents were behind bars in Vietnam, either sentenced or awaiting trial.
They face prison terms of up to 16 years, he added.
"Such repression does not serve to protect national security, as the Vietnamese authorities claim, but to stifle the voices of an emerging civil society speaking out on corruption, power abuse, the plight of dispossessed peasants and farmers, human rights and democratic reforms," he said.
He condemned Vietnam's use of Ordinance 44, a 2002 ruling which authorises the detention of suspected national security offenders without due process of the law.
It increasingly has been deployed against bloggers, sometimes in psychiatric hospitals, he said.
"Vietnam must abrogate Ordinance 44 and all other legislation incompatible with international human rights law," he said.
Fellow-campaigner Penelope Faulker, with the French-based group Work Together for Human Rights, noted that after a 2009 United Nations review, Hanoi had pledged to uphold freedom of information.
"However, in the past year alone, scores of bloggers, online journalists and human rights defenders in Vietnam have been harassed, intimated, subjected to police abuse, or condemned to extremely harsh prison sentences simply for expressing their peaceful views on the Internet," she told the Council.
Vietnam is not currently one of the 47 member states of the Human Rights Council.
The southeast Asian country has been branded an "enemy of the Internet" by freedom of expression watchdog Reporters Without Borders.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]