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Vietnam Committee applauds UN expert’s call to close down rehabilitation centres for drug users and sex workers in Vietnam

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PARIS, 7 December 2011 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) – The Vietnam Committee for Human Rights applauds the call to close down so-called “rehabilitation centres” for injecting drug users and female sex workers by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Mr. Anand Grover following his visit to Vietnam from 25 November to 5 December 2011. In comments at the conclusion of his visit, the UN expert esteemed that detention and compulsory treatment of people in such centres perpetuated “stigmatization and discrimination” and “violated their right to health” (1).

Indeed, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights has condemned the appalling conditions and frequent abusive detention in these institutions since the mid-1990s, when the government set up compulsory rehabilitation centres in widespread drives against “social evils”. Tens of thousands of people were arrested in these drives, not only sex workers and drug addicts, but also vagrants, homeless orphans, unemployed workers or farmers without residence permits who flocked to the big cities to look for work. The official press reported that in Ho Chi Minh City alone, the Department of Labour, War Invalids and Social Welfare admitted signing 9,000 authorisations for detention “without reading the case histories of any one of them” (2).

Since these rehabilitation centres are administrative, not criminal justice institutions, no arrest warrant is required, and police errors and abuse of justice are routine. Before international conferences in Hanoi, Police regularly “sweep the streets” clean of vagrants, many of them young girls, sometimes receiving “bounties” for each person picked up and sent to the centres, as the Vietnam Committee informed the UN in its report on to the CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) (2).

Even dissidents and government critics are liable to be detained in these centres. Under Ordinance 44 on “Regulations on Administrative Violations”, local Police may arrest citizens suspected of “national security” violations without any process of law and detain them under house arrest, in psychiatric institutions or in “educational institutions” for bad social elements, i.e. rehabilitation centres.

The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights welcomes Vietnam’s invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health to visit Vietnam, and urges the government to implement his recommendations. We also call upon the Vietnamese government to issue standing invitations to all UN Special procedures, notably the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, on Freedom of Religion and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

(1) UN Expert urges Vietnam to close down Compulsory Rehabilitation Centres for Drug users and Sex Workers, United Nations, Geneva, 5 December 2011,

(2) Alternative Report on the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimnation against Women (CEDAW, Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, Paris 2007).

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