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Trade relations: Reluctant to assess human rights in Vietnam, the EU fails to respect its commitments

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BRUSSELS, 3 July 2013 (FIDH & VCHR) – FIDH and VCHR wrote an open letter to the European Union on 30 April 2013 highlighting how prejudicial the absence of an assessment on human rights would be within the context of the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement currently under negotiation. In its reply received today, the European Commission confirms that a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) is not included. Therefore, the EU fails to respect the commitment made in its June 2012 Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy to “insert human rights in all Impact Assessments”.

It is well known today that international trade and investments can have positive effects on human rights, but it has often also contributed to undermine the protection and realisation of human rights and to worsen the social, economic, civil and political situation of citizens, in particular those in developing countries and states where corruption is high and transparency is low.

The way to ensure that trade partners respect their international obligations and that the EU’s trade agreements benefit and do not harm human rights is to document the potential risks and to adapt the negotiations to consider and mitigate those risks. It is the position of Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, who in 2010 already declared: “It is time to act. The methodology for conducting HRIAs exists. The decision to implement HRIAs is a matter of political will”.

FIDH and VCHR call the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union to urge the Commission to launch the requested Human Rights Impact Assessment.

“These institutions need ensure the mandate of negotiation is adapted to address the challenges in Vietnam and that the agreement contains efficient safeguards and guarantees to that end” said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. “It is essential that the Council and the European Parliament make sure they are fully informed when the time comes to negotiate and agree the adoption of the Free Trade Agreement”.

“Since 2009, at least 160 peaceful activists have been sentenced to a total of 1,052 years in prison in a brutal government crackdown, despite Vietnam’s commitments made under its UPR the same year. An HRIA must be urgently made to ensure that the Council and the European Parliament are provided with the full facts.” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai.

Background documents:

– Open Letter: Vietnam and Free trade Agreement negotiations: NGOs urge the EU to carry out a human rights impact assessment, 30 April 2013

The EU’s Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy – one year after its adoption, 24 June 2013

For more information, please contact:
In Paris, for FIDH, Arthur Manet (English, French, Spanish): +33 6 72 28 42 94 (mobile)
In Brussels, for FIDH, Catherine Absalom (English, French): + 32 2 609 44 23 (office)
In Paris, for VCHR, Vo Tran Nhat (English, French): +33 1 45 98 30 85 (office)

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