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At the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Global Civil Society Democracy Movement denounces Vietnam’s candidacy to the Security Council before the UN Democracy Caucus

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NEW YORK, 1st October 2007 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) – In an Oral Statement to Ministers of over 100 member-states of the United Nations Democracy Caucus meeting at the UN General Assembly in New York today (Monday 1st October), the Non-governmental International Steering Committee of the Community of Democracies called on the world’s democratic nations not to give their votes to Libya and Vietnam as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. The two countries are standing for election for the period 2008-2009. Although they are “clean-slate” cases (i.e. their seats are not contested), they must nevertheless obtain a two-thirds majority vote of General Assembly members to be elected. The vote takes place on 16th October 2007 (1).

The organization expressed its “deep concern that non-democratic countries such as Libya and Vietnam are standing for election to the UN Security Council for the period 2008-2009, whilst continuing to commit serious human rights violations. The ISC urges the UN Democracy Caucus to ensure that candidates to the Security Council adhere to fundamental UN human rights standards, and calls upon member states of the Democracy Caucus not to give their votes to Libya or Vietnam”.

The Non-governmental International Steering Committee (ISC) is the governing body for civil society of the Community of Democracies, a global grouping of democratic and democratizing states launched in Warsaw in 2000 as a forum for strengthening international cooperation for democracy and human rights promotion. The Community’s participants established the UN Democracy Caucus to coordinate common positions on democracy and human rights in the United Nations, and the UN Democracy Fund, which supports civil society projects for democratization worldwide.

Mr. Vo Van Ai, member of the Non-governmental International Steering Committee and President of the Paris-based Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam, warmly welcomed the ISC’s firm stand. “Vietnam seeks legitimacy internationally whilst flagrantly suppressing basic human rights at home. The Democracy Caucus should not accept such duplicity within this world forum”, he said.

Mr. Ai also made public an Open Letter to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and all members of the UN General Assembly in which ISC members and over a hundred leading democracy and human rights organizations, Members of Parliament and international personalities from 30 countries of Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States condemned Vietnam’s non-compliance with UN standards, and called on UN members not to vote for Vietnam.

Recalling that the UN Charter’s criteria for election to the Security Council are: “the contribution of Members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization”, the letter’s signatories declared: “On both these accounts, Vietnam is ineligible for this seat”.

“The minimal obligation of UN member states is to uphold the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, and comply with international human rights standards and norms. Countries aspiring to become members of the UN Security Council have a special responsibility to fulfil these binding obligations”, said the Open Letter, noting that Vietnam, on the contrary, not only grossly violates key UN human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which it acceded in 1982, but “refuses all dialogue with UN human rights mechanisms”.

The Open Letter deplored that Vietnam continues to detain peaceful critics under vaguely-defined national security provisions in the Criminal Code which “make no distinction between violent acts such as terrorism and the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression”, and “criminalize the peaceful exercise of human rights”. Seven of these offences are punishable by death.

In 2007, Vietnam invoked these national security laws in a “brutal crack-down on dissent” in which “scores of human rights defenders, religious followers, democracy activists, cyber-dissidents, journalists and trades unionists” were arrested “simply for circulating petitions on democracy or calling for human rights. In a wave of unfair trials between March and May 2007, 20 pro-democracy activists were sentenced to a total of 80 years in prison and 30 years house arrest for their peaceful activities”.

The letter’s signatories further condemned Vietnam’s systematic use of violence to suppress growing peaceful protests by farmers and peasants known as the “Victims of Injustice” against official power abuse and State confiscation of land. In Vietnam, where farmers and peasants represent 74% of the 83-million population and 75% of its total work force of 45 million people, this “movement of rural discontent has reached explosive proportions”, with over 2 million complaints filed over the past 10 years. Instead of seeking to solve these problems, Vietnam has banned demonstrations outside public buildings, and subjects the protesters to routine harassment and arrest.

The Open Letter also expressed deep concern for the situation of Buddhist dissident and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Venerable Thich Quang Do, who is the object of a “virulent slander campaign” in the State-controlled media since he launched a campaign in July 2007 to support the Victims of Injustice. The Deputy leader of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) is accused of “inciting people to demonstrate”. “These are ominous charges in Vietnam, and we fear they are a prelude to a crackdown”, wrote the signatories, recalling that “Thich Quang Do, who is currently under house arrest without charge at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City, has spent 26 years in detention for his peaceful advocacy of religious freedom, democracy and human rights”.

In conclusion, the signatories of Open Letter called upon all members of the UN General Assembly:

“We believe that international peace and security cannot be maintained by a government who creates insecurity at home by using violence and repression to suppress its citizens’ peaceful aspirations and legitimate rights.

We therefore call upon you not to vote for Vietnam as a Non-Permanent member of the United Nations’ Security Council, and select another Asian candidate for this seat. Vietnam should not be elected to serve on the Security Council unless it makes a formal pledge, within an established time frame, to take the following steps;

Ø immediately release all persons detained for the peaceful exercise of their legitimate right to freedom of expression, religion, assembly and association, in particular the UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang, Thich Quang Do, Father Nguyen Van Ly, Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan;

Ø re-establish the legitimate status of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and cease repression against members of all non-recognized religious communities such as the Buddhists, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai and Protestants;

Ø implement the recommendations of UN Human Rights Committee (July 2002) by revising “national security” provisions in the Criminal Code and repealing all legislation that curbs the exercise of human rights; immediately repeal Ordinance 44 on administrative detention which empowers Security Police to detain dissidents without trial for up to two years or intern them in psychiatric institutions;

Ø comply fully with UN human rights mechanisms, beginning with extending a standing invitation to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, the Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to make in situ visits to Vietnam;

Ø abolish the death penalty in Vietnam.


(partial list of signatories)

Nina Shea, Director, Center for Religious Freedom, The Hudson Institute, Commissioner, US Commission on International Religious Freedom; Theodore Piccone, Executive Director, Democracy Coalition Project; Richard Rowson, President, Council for a Community of Democracies; Morton H. Halperin, Open Society Institute; Vo Van Ai, President, Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam; Arne Liljedahl Lynngård, Chairman, Rafto Foundation, Norway; Roel Von Meijenfeldt, Executive Director, Netherlands Institute for Multi-Party Democracy; Oumar Makalou, Executive Secretariat, Non-governmental Process of the Community of Democracies, Mali; Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director, Freedom House; Marco Pannella, Member of Parliament, Italy; Marco Cappato, Member of Parliament, Italy; Donatella Poretti, Member of Parliament, Italy; Bruno Mellano, Member of Parliament, Italy, Marco Beltrandi, Member of Parliament, Italy; Maurizio Turco, Member of Parliament, Italy, Sergio D’Elia, Member of Parliament, Italy; Ilona Mihaies, Executive Director, Euroregional Center for Democracy, Romania; Hannah Forster, Director, African Center for Democracy and Human Rights, Gambia; Dieudonné Zognong, Director, Humanus Foundation, Cameroon; Robert LaGamma, Executive Director, Council for a Community of Democracies; Han Dong Fang, Director, China Labour Bulletin, Hong Kong; Xiao Qiang, Director, China Internet Project; Urgen Tenzin, Director, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Dharamsala; Weng-chen Lin, President, Taiwan Foundation for Democracy; Debbie Stothard, Steering Committee, World Forum for Democratization in Asia; Khin Ohmar, Director, Network for Democracy and Development (Burma); Dolkun Isa, World Uyghur Congress; Somchai Homalor, Coalition for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Thailand; Chee Siok Chin, Executive Director, Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia, Singapore; Matteo Meccaci, Vice-President of the Senate, Non-violent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty, Italy; Bo Tedards, Coordinator, World Forum for Democratization in Asia; Augusto Miclat, Executive Director, Initiatives for International Dialogue, Philippines; Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director, SUARAM, Malaysia; Attorney Florencio B. Abad, Vice-President, Liberal Party of the Philippines; Tian Chua, People’s Justice Party, Malaysia; Zanaa Jurmed, Director, Center for Citizens Alliance, Mongolia; Dr. Paul Scott, Professor, Asian Studies Program, Kansai Gaidao University, Japan; Dr. Ash Narain Roy, Institute of Social Sciences, India; Sarwar Bari, Chairperson, Pattan Development Organization, Pakistan; Subodh Raj Pyakurel, Chairperson, Informal Sector Service Centre, Nepal; Chalida Tajaroensuk, Coordinator, People’s Empowerment, Thailand; Dr. Hong Seong-phil, Director, Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights; Joseph Yu-shek Cheng, Professor of Political Science, City University of Hong Kong; Sheng Xua, Vice-President, Federation for a Democratic China; Mani Sinhbandith, United Lao Action Center; M. Ravi, Human Rights Lawyer, Singapore; Venerable Katsuyuki Imoto, Catuddisa Sangha, Japan; Venerable Dim Chetta, Catuddisa Sangha, Cambodia; Venerable Thich Vien Ly, Secretary General, Vietnamese American Unified Buddhist Congress in the USA; Venerable Thich Giac Dang, USA-Vietnam Theravada Buddhist Sangha; Luie Guia, Libertas, Philippines; Sareme Sundara, Lao Fund; Lambert Ramirez, National Institute for Policy Studies, Philippines; Tsung Li Yang, Taiwan Youth Democracy Association; Kok Ksor, President, Scott Johnson, Y Duen, Montagnard Foundation Inc.; Kh. Naranjargal, President, Globe International, Mongolia; Young Howard, Director, Open Radio for North Korea; Schu Sugawara, Chairperson, International Committee, Japan Congress of Journalists; Dr. Jarmila Ballaho-Balamo, Women’s Organization of Basilan, Philippines; Prof. Octavio A. Dinampo, Tulung Lupah Sug, Philippines; Dr. Samsula J. Adju, Sakayan Mindanao, Inc., Philippines; Maria A. Caber, Teachers Dignity Coalition, Philippines; Benjamin Reilly, Australian National University; Steve Buttel, Human Rights Without Frontiers, South East Asia; Penelope Faulkner, Vice-President, Vietnam Committee on Human Rights.

(1) The 15-member UN Security Council has 5 permanent members and 10 seats for elected members serving 2-year terms. Five of these seats are up for election for 2008-2009 (2 for Africa, 1 for Latin America, 1 for Asia, 1 for Eastern Europe). Vietnam is candidate for the Asian seat. Libya and Burkina Faso are candidates for the 2 African seats. The Latin America (GRULAC) seat is contested by Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, the East European seat by Croatia and the Czech Republic.

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