January 5, 2011
Dr. Ole Danbolt Mjos
Chairman, Nobel Peace Prize Committee
Dear Dr. Mjos:
We write to nominate Dr. Nguyen Dan Que for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr. Que is a courageous lifelong campaigner for human rights and democracy in Vietnam, and he has been fearless in campaigning for the full application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to all people. His selfless actions in pursuit of a peaceful transition to democracy in Vietnam have brought him great personal hardship and political retaliation for three decades. He would be an extremely worthy recipient in line with the many esteemed laureates of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize.
Born in Hanoi, Dr. Que studied medicine and became a physician in Saigon. When war engulfed his country and his family fled in 1975, he refused to leave, deciding to stay and help rebuild his country after decades of war. He established a successful medical practice in Ho Chi Minh City and was outspoken in defense of better medical care and universal human rights for all. When he challenged the government’s policy of selective treatment for Communist Party members while neglecting the health problems of the poor, he was removed as director of the Medical Department of Cho Ray Hospital.
In 1976, frustrated by the lack of basic human rights in Vietnam, Dr. Que and some friends founded the National Progressive Front. The movement embraced nonviolence and urged the government to “cut down military spending, invest in the welfare of the people, and hold free and fair elections.” In February 1978, the Vietnamese government arrested him for the first time, accusing him and 47 other activists of disloyalty. Dr. Que remained in detention for 10 years, pending formal charges and a trial. During this time, he was tortured, beaten, and put into solitary confinement in chains. He spent two months in a five-by-six-foot cell without sanitary facilities. Due to the intervention of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Asia, Dr. Que was released in 1988 in poor health. His story gained him a national reputation as “Si Phu” — a Vietnamese tribute for an intellectual who heroically dedicates his life to the welfare of the people and one’s country.
Undaunted, Dr. Que only increased his calls inside Vietnam for peaceful protest and democracy. On May 11, 1990, Dr. Que founded the Non-Violent Movement for Human Rights, issuing a manifesto that appealed for peaceful activism to demand that the government of Vietnam respect basic human rights and accept multi-party democracy. His manifesto also proposed that the government of Vietnam cease aggression and work for peace in Southeast Asia.
Dr. Que was arrested one month later and imprisoned without trial. He was again tortured and required emergency medical care on several occasions. In November 1991, on very short notice, Dr. Que was brought to trial on charges of trying to overthrow the government. Without being allowed to call witnesses or to have legal representation, he was sentenced to twenty years of hard labor and five years of house arrest.
As his story inspired men and women in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States, people came forward throughout Vietnam and in many parts of the world to speak on Dr. Que’s behalf and to protest his imprisonment. Members of parliaments and diplomats from Europe and the United States, as well as labor, human rights and church leaders spoke out on his behalf and appealed for his release. In 1994, The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights presented Dr. Que with its annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.
In August 1998, the Vietnamese Government prepared to release several prominent human rights activists. Vietnamese officials told Dr. Que they would release him but that he would have to go into exile in the United States, where his family lived. He refused, saying, “Exile is not freedom.” He was released anyway and immediately began issuing more pro-democracy tracts and distributing them in Vietnam and to international representatives.
In March 2003, Dr. Que was arrested for a third time. He was charged with espionage and held incommunicado in an effort to lesson international outcry. He was sentenced to two and half years’ imprisonment for “abusing democratic rights.” Later that year, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Dr. Que had been wrongly detained and should be released immediately. After further international outcry, Dr. Que was released in February 2005 and placed under “house arrest.”
Despite nearly 30 years of imprisonment, torture, and abuse, Dr. Que remains unbowed. One month after his most recent release, he gave an international radio interview issuing his nine-point road map to democracy in Vietnam. This plan continues his aspiration for a peaceful path to Vietnamese democracy and universal human rights in the country he loves. On August 16, 2010, he wrote a Wall Street Journal article titled: “The Democracy Fix For The South China Sea” criticizing the U.S. policy toward Vietnam as missing one critical point: “The recognition that only a free and democratic Vietnam can be a reliable partner for peace in this region.” In August 2010, Madam Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended the East Asia summit in Hanoi. Dr. Que and 92 Vietnamese citizens, mostly prominent dissidents sent a letter asking Madam Clinton to raise her influential voice on behalf of freedom of internet in Vietnam and to intervene for the release of 2 famous bloggers,Dieu Cay and Anh Ba Saigon. Dr. Que continues to lead the fight. Again, on December 10, 2010, on The 62nd Anniversary of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights,he and 214 prominent dissidents signed the Declaration of Vietnamese Patriots which condemns the violations of human rights by the Vietnamese Communist regime and demands that the Vietnamese government respect basic human rights, to accept a multi-party system, and to return to the Vietnamese people the right to choose their own form of government according to their will through free and fair election.
Dr. Que’s unwavering dedication to human rights, at extraordinary personal cost, perfectly exemplifies the ideals of the Nobel Peace Prize. Numerous other Nobel laureates have spoken out to praise him, comparing him to previous winners.( Recently) Dr. Torsten Wiesel, Nobel laureate in medicine and chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the National Academies of the Sciences, joined 11 other Nobel laureates in likening his selfless dedication to that of Dr. Andrei Sakharov.
We urge the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to honor Dr. Que’s tireless efforts for a peaceful transition to democracy in Vietnam with the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Recognizing Dr. Que’s lifetime of heroic activism would provide a beacon of hope to all Vietnamese human rights activists, including the Buddhist monk the Venerable Thich Quang Do. The impact also would ripple far beyond Vietnam to bolster those campaigning peacefully in neighboring China, Burma, and other nations where human rights are under assault.
James P. Moran Gerald E. Connolly
Member of Congress Member of Congress