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Reuters : Vietnam rejects criticism by rights groups at U.N.

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GENEVA, 24 March 2009 (Reuters) – Vietnam on Tuesday rejected as “slanderous and distorted” allegations by exiled human rights groups that it stifles peaceful dissent and jails its critics.

Vietnam’s ambassador, in a letter sent to the U.N. Human Rights Council, said that when addressing the Geneva forum one of the groups, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, had ignored its achievements in protecting fundamental freedoms.

Hanoi has regular discussions on human rights with the United States and European Union, as well as other countries, Vietnam’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Vu Dung, said in the letter obtained by Reuters.

Dung said this contradicted what he called “slanderous and distorted information about the situation of human rights in Vietnam” presented by Vo Van Ai, president of the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights.

Ai had denounced “grave violations of human rights” by the Communist authorities and said they exerted “intolerable pressures on dissidents and their families in everyday life.”

“As a result, all peaceful dissent is systematically stifled,” he said on Monday, in remarks spoken also on behalf of Agir Ensemble Pour les Droits de l’Homme.

Ai said Thich Quang Do, the leader of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, was being held under house arrest without trial in his monastery in Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, after 26 years in detention.

Vietnam brutally repressed protests by farmers and workers last September and many of those arrested remained in prison under extremely harsh conditions, Ai added. Bloggers and lawyers had also been detained.

The Vietnamese envoy said that Ai’s group should not be allowed to “repeat the abuse” before the Council again.

The 47-member forum is to examine Vietnam’s rights record in May, under a mechanism known as the Universal Periodic Review, which subjects all U.N. members to scrutiny every four years.

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