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Hanoi fails in attempt to stifle NGO freedom of speech at the United Nations

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PARIS, 24 July 2004 (VCHR) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights warmly welcomes the decision taken by the UN Economic and Social Council (Ecosoc) meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday 23 July to reject a recommendation filed by Vietnam to suspend the consultative status of the Transnational Radical Party (TRP), an Italy-based non-governmental organization. If adopted, the TRP would have been barred from the UN for a period of three years, the maximum suspension for an NGO.

The TRP’s suspension was proposed by government of Vietnam, who filed a complaint against the TRP in April 2002 for accrediting Mr Kok Ksor, President of the Montagnard Foundation, to speak at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Vietnam accused Kok Ksor of being engaged in “terrorist and a separatist activities” following his reports on the repression of ethnic Montagnards in the Central Highlands. Since then, Vietnam has waged an intensive vilification campaign against Kok Ksor and the TRP in the State-controlled media and in international forums.

On 21 May 2004, with the support of countries such as China, Cuba, Russia, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan, the Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe, Vietnam’s initiative was adopted with a one-vote majority by the 19-member UN NGO Committee, a subsidiary body of Ecosoc, but the decision had to be ratified by the 54-member Ecosoc Council at their plenary session this week. The vote took place on Friday afternoon, New York time. During the debate, the Ambassador of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union’s 25 member states, spoke strongly in support of the TRP, defending the right of all NGOs to report on human rights abuses within the UN : “No organization should have its consultative status suspended merely because it draws attention of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to alleged human rights violations, especially to indigenous issues and religious freedom”. The vote was carried by 22 votes against the TRP’s suspension, 20 in favour, eleven abstentions and one absent.
“This is the second time within one week that the international community has sent a strong signal to Vietnam that it cannot continue to abuse human rights and stifle its critics with impunity” said Vo Van Ai, President of the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights. “On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives passed the Vietnam Human Rights Act which links US aid to measurable human rights progress. Today, the Ecosoc Council has rebuffed Vietnam’s attempts to silence NGO voices in the UN”. Mr Ai added : “Vietnam must cease its flagrant violations of religious freedom and human rights, beginning by immediately releasing dissident Nguyen Dan Que who stands trial on 29 July, as well as Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and his Deputy, Venerable Thich Quang Do, both detained incommunicado since October 2003 respectively at the Nguyen Thieu Monastery (Binh Dinh) and the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery (Ho Chi Minh City) without any justification or charge. These eminent UBCV leaders have both spent more than 20 years in detention for their peaceful advocacy of democracy and human rights”.

The TRP has frequently spoken out for the release of political and religious dissidents in Vietnam. In June 2001, former MEP Olivier Dupuis, then TRP Secretary general, staged a peaceful sit-in outside Venerable Thich Quang Do’s Monastery to demand the release of UBCV leaders and call for religious freedom and human rights in Vietnam. He was arrested and expelled by the Vietnamese authorities.

This post is also available in: French Vietnamese

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