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European Parliament condemns religious persecution and human rights violations in Vietnam and Laos

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STRASBOURG, 26 November 2009 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) – In its plenary session in Strasbourg today, the European Parliament passed a “Resolution on the Situation in Laos and Vietnam”. Adopted by an overwhelming majority, the Resolution drew a consensus of MEPs from all different political groups.

The EP Resolution strongly condemned recent violations of human rights in these two countries, and called for effective EU mechanisms to enforce the human rights and democracy clauses in its bilateral agreements.

On Vietnam, the EP deplored the fact that “many religious organizations face a ban and persecution of their members if they wish to remain independent of the government”, especially since, “in the absence of independent human rights organisations, Church leaders often take on the role of human rights defenders and fight for greater tolerance and more democratic principles”. Specifically, the European Parliament cited the repression against the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), the continued house arrest of UBCV leader Thich Quang Do after more than 27 years in detention, the recent expulsion of Buddhist monks, nuns and followers from the Bat Nha monastery and the imprisonment of hundreds of people in Vietnam simply on account of their religious or political beliefs.

Regretting that Vietnam had “refused to respond to many of the recommendations made during the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, held from May to September 2009, with a view to improving its human rights record”, the EP called on Vietnam to respect international obligations and “put an end to its systematic violations of democracy and human rights”: “Vietnam, which will assume the chair of ASEAN in 2010, must set an example by improving its human rights practices. The government could start by releasing the hundreds of peaceful government critics, independent church activists, bloggers, and democracy advocates imprisoned in violation of international law on groundless national security charges for expressing peaceful dissent”.

Mr. Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights and Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam, welcomed the EP’s Resolution: “By recognizing the increase of religious persecution and human rights abuses, the European Parliament is giving hope to all those whose voices are suppressed in Vietnam. The Resolution is also a strong signal to the Vietnamese government that it cannot continue to suppress its citizens’ rights with impunity if it hopes to play a greater role on the global stage”.

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