HANOI, Nov 19, 2003 (dpa) – Vietnam reacted angrily to a French human rights organization’s criticisms of the country’s human rights record Wednesday.
In a statement Monday, the France-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights called on the European Union to urge Vietnam to release prisoners of conscience, loosen the state control of the media and issue a temporary ban on executions.
Vietnam reacted angrily. “I believe that all the statements slandering and distorting the situation of Vietnam made by the so-called ‘Vietnam’s committee on human rights’ can hardly persuade anyone,” Le Dung, Vietnam’s press spokesman said.
The seven-page memorandum published by the human rights group said that the human rights situation in Vietnam had deteriorated in 2002-2003.
“We have many times clearly stated that in Vietnam, all the rights of people including freedom of speech, press freedom, access to information are regulated in the country’s constitution and are guaranteed in reality,” Le Dung said in a statement.
Last week in Hanoi, Tran Dung Tien, the former bodyguard of revolutionary Ho Chi Minh who turned democracy campaigner, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms”.
Outside the courthouse last Monday another elderly dissident spoke to journalists despite the dozen or so plainclothes and uniformed security officers who were listening.
“The government wants us to be frightened or afraid but if we are frightened or afraid we just turn ourselves into speaking animals,” 81-year-old Hoang Minh Chinh told reporters.
Former Communist Party member and soldier Chinh first criticized the Communist Party in 1967, and has been in and out of jail for the last 30 years.
“There is no democracy here. Not just for me but for all of the people. Without democracy we don’t have press freedom and without freedom of press and speech, we don’t have any kind of freedom,” the elderly dissident told reporters.
Vietnam states frequently that there are no prisoners of conscience in its jails, only law breakers.
The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights said that broadly defined but strictly punished offences mean that outspoken critics of the communist regime can be jailed.
“Article 258 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code, which provides sentences of up to three years for ‘abusing democratic freedoms to encroach upon the interests of the State and social organization’ is also routinely invoked to detain government critics and followers of non-organized religious movements,” the group said in their statement.
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