Long-Imprisoned Vietnamese Doctor to Receive
Human Rights Award from NY
Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, a 61-year old Vietnamese medical doctor who has dedicated his life to improving the lives of the Vietnamese people and who has spent nearly 25 years in prison or under house arrest, has been named the recipient of the 2004 Heinz R. Pagels Human Rights of Scientists Award by the New York Academy of Sciences.
The Pagels prize, awarded annually in
recognition of services on behalf of the human rights of scientists, will be
bestowed at the Academy’s Annual Meeting on
Joseph L. Birman, chair of the
Academy’s human rights committee, said that Dr. Que was chosen because of his
“unwavering efforts to improve the daily lives of people in
Dr. Que has been committed to providing medical care for the poor since graduating from medical school in 1966, including a free clinic he founded and staffed with volunteer doctors, nurses, and medical students. One of the first of many examples of his civil courage was his willingness to treat students and others who were injured during demonstrations against the government.
After further medical studies in
Even after his release in an amnesty
in 1988, he continued to speak out for basic human rights in
Released again under a presidential amnesty in August 1998, Dr. Que’s health had worsened considerably and he was unable to walk without assistance. Refusing to leave the country, he was held under house arrest for over four years but continued to promote respect for human rights. For example, in addition to appealing to the government to improve prison conditions, he wrote articles calling for democracy and for better treatment of indigenous minorities.
Harassment of Dr. Que intensified,
including 24-hour surveillance, disconnection of his telephone and Internet
service, and interrogation of visitors.
After writing an article criticizing recent Vietnamese government claims
that there is freedom of information in
“Repeated requests to visit Dr. Que of even just speak to him by telephone by his family, as well as international diplomats, have all been denied,” said Prof. Birman. “Given his current isolation and the fact that he was denied medical care during his previous incarcerations, it is feared that he may not be receiving any medical attention for his grave ill health.”
The Academy’s first human rights award was given in 1979 to Russian physicist Andrei Sakharov. Renamed in 1988 in honor of former Academy president Heinz R. Pagels, the award has been bestowed on such imminent scientists as Chinese dissident Fang Li-Zhi, Russian Nuclear Engineer Alexander Nikitin, and Cuban Economist Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello.
“In his fight for human rights and freedom of speech, Dr. Que exemplifies the virtues demonstrated by our first award winner, Andre Sakharov,” said Nobel Laureate Torsten Wiesel, chair of the Academy’s Board of Governors. “The Academy is proud to have Dr. Que join the list of more than 25 exemplary citizens of the world who have been honored with this award.”