Organizations around the world, including Rights CoLab partner Just Ground, have joined a relay hunger strike demanding the release of Vietnamese environmental lawyer Dang Dinh Bach. 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. The UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has released an opinion regarding Bach’s imprisonment, finding it a “violation of international law” and expressing concerns about a “systemic problem with arbitrary detention” of environmental defenders in Vietnam.
Though Bach had originally planned to begin his hunger strike to protest his unjust detention on June 24th, the two-year anniversary of his arrest, Bach decided to start early, on June 9th, and will continue to strike to the death unless the Vietnamese governments releases him. To amplify Bach’s demand for release and his substantive demands for climate justice in Vietnam, dozens of organizations have undertaken the relay solidarity hunger strike from May 24 to June 24, with at least one organization per day striking in solidarity. The campaign was organized by the Global Network of Movement Lawyers (of which Bach was a member) with the support of the Stand With Bach Coalition, which includes International Rivers, Global Witness, ELAW, Earthrights International, the 88 Project and many other organizations that have been calling for the release of jailed environmental defenders in Vietnam and a just energy transition in Vietnam that includes the full and meaningful participation of civil society. The recent arrest of Hoang Thi Minh Hong has raised the volume on these calls for release, with a recent editorial published in the Washington Post.
Just Ground responded to the call for action because there is an urgent need to stand against the threats to civic freedoms and attacks on human rights defenders. In our work in business and human rights, we have seen this happen, not only in repressive regimes, but also under democratically elected governments. We are constantly humbled and inspired by the commitment and courage of the frontline defenders we support. We hope for the success of the #StandWithBach campaign – and for a safe and enabling environment for all human rights and environmental defenders.