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Vietnam: Sustained EU pressure needed on human rights at upcoming dialogue

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PARIS-BRUSSELS, 16 January 2015 (FIDH & VCHR) – The European Union (EU) must use upcoming talks with Vietnam to demand that Hanoi urgently address serious human rights violations, FIDH and its member organization Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said today. The two organizations made the call ahead of the fifth EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, which is scheduled to be held in Brussels on 19 January.

“As the human rights situation in Vietnam shows no signs of improvement, the EU must use the dialogue to present clear, measurable, and time-bound recommendations for the Vietnamese government to implement,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

EU recommendations must include an end to the harassment and arbitrary arrest of bloggers, activists, religious followers, and human rights defenders as well as the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

In 2014, Vietnam detained or imprisoned at least 12 bloggers and human rights defenders and it currently holds about 200 political prisoners, the largest number in Southeast Asia (1). Towards the end of 2014, Vietnamese authorities intensified the crackdown on freedom of expression with the arrest of three prominent bloggers. Hong Le Tho and Nguyen Quang Lap were detained on 29 November and 6 December, respectively, under Article 258 of the Criminal Code for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State.” On 27 December, Nguyen Dinh Ngoc aka Nguyen Ngoc Gia was arrested for “illegal activities” and detained on unspecified charges. Many activists were also harassed and assaulted by covert security agents for reporting human rights abuses, including independent journalist Truong Minh Duc in November 2014.

The EU must also demand that Vietnam urgently repeal or amend various provisions of the Criminal Code that authorities continue to use to imprison peaceful dissidents. In addition to Article 258, other draconian provisions that are not in line with international law include: Article 79, which sanctions “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration”; Article 87, which punishes activities “undermining national solidarity, sowing divisions between religious and non-religious people”; and Article 88, which outlaws “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

With regard to economic, social, and cultural rights, the EU must urge Vietnam to implement all the recommendations made by the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) on 15 December 2014 (2). The CESCR’s concluding observations echoed the findings and recommendations contained in a report jointly released by FIDH and VCHR on 11 November 2014 that documented serious and ongoing violations of economic, social, and cultural rights in Vietnam.

The CESCR denounced the absence of effective and accessible remedies for victims of violations of economic, social, and cultural rights. It expressed concern over the intimidation of individuals who claimed violations of their rights, such as those protesting against forced evictions or poor working conditions. The CESCR also deplored the widespread economic exploitation of children and the adverse impact of development programs on the enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights by ethnic minorities.

The CESCR called for the establishment of a national human rights institution that complies with the Paris Principles and the creation of an enabling environment for the free establishment and functioning of independent civil society organizations. It urged Vietnam to improve worker rights by removing excessive restrictions on the right to strike, enabling citizens to form and join trade unions of their choice, and repealing legislation that authorizes child labor.

“The UN Committee’s conclusions are significant because they underscore the link between economic activities and human rights abuses in Vietnam,” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai. “In an effort to strengthen economic relations and regain its position as Vietnam’s biggest export market, the EU must not overlook the serious human rights violations that continue to take place in the country.”

On 7 August 2014, FIDH and VCHR filed a complaint to the EU Ombudsperson to demand that the office address the European Commission’s refusal to take human rights into account in negotiations for trade and investment agreements with Vietnam. As a result of the complaint, the EU Ombudsperson formally opened a case on 3 September 2014.

Press contacts
FIDH: Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) – Tel: +66 886117722 (Bangkok)
FIDH: Mr. Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) – Tel: +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris)
FIDH: Ms. Audrey Couprie (French, English, Spanish) – Tel: +33 6 48 05 91 57 (Paris)
VCHR: Penelope Faulkner (English, French, Vietnamese) – Tel: + 33 1 45 98 30 85 (Paris)

(1) See, FIDH, Vietnam: At least 200 political prisoners behind bars, 6 March 2014; See also, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Vietnam: Three human rights defenders sentenced to jail, 27 August 2014, and Vietnam: Another blogger jailed for denouncing human rights violations, 4 March 2014.

(2) Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Concluding observations on the second to fourth periodic reports of Viet Nam, 15 December 2014, UN Doc. E/C.12/VNM/CO/2-4

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