Vietnam admits shortcomings at U.N. rights review

* Exiles and rights activists accuse Vietnam of crackdowns

* Vietnam defends record, admits individual shortcomings

* Demonstration coincides with rare U.N. scrutiny

(Updates with Vietnam presentation to U.N. Human Rights Council)

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, May 8 (Reuters) – Vietnam acknowledged some human rights “wrongdoings” in its appearance before a United Nations human rights forum on Friday, but rejected accusations from exiles about its treatment of dissidents and minorities.

Those exiles, backed by a major international human rights group, submitted a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council accusing the Southeast Asian country of quashing press freedom and Internet access in a bid to silence critics.

Their report demanded the release of political prisoners held under “vague national security provisions” of Vietnam’s law, and raised concerns about religious repression, widespread use of the death penalty and coercive birth control practices.

Vietnam defended its record at the 47 member-state forum in Geneva, which is assessing the Vietnamese human rights record under a “universal periodic review” mechanism which will subject all United Nations members to scrutiny.

Pham Binh Minh, Vietnam’s first vice minister of foreign affairs, said Hanoi had made achievements in protecting human rights. Religious activities have increased and ethnic minorities are “participating in an increasingly equal manner in social and political life,” he said.

He acknowledged shortcomings, including “wrongdoings” by some civil servants who had a limited understanding of human rights, but rejected “unfounded reports” about its record.

“Vietnam is still victim of hostile activities like terrorism, sabotage, acts to destabilise the country and infringe upon national security and territorial integrity,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to build a strong country and prosperous people in a just, democratic and advanced society.”


The activists’ report says Vietnam’s ruling Communist authorities routinely use charges of espionage to detain “cyber-dissidents” for posting their views on the Internet.

“These crimes, which make no distinction between violent acts such as terrorism and the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, are punishable by harsh prison terms including life imprisonment,” it said. Seven crimes carry the death penalty.

Penelope Faulkner, executive secretary of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, told Reuters: “There are several thousand political prisoners all over the country. They are detained in all sorts of ways including house arrest.”

Vietnamese exiles demonstrated outside the U.N. offices in Geneva, sheltering from the rain under umbrellas, to draw attention to the rare international scrutiny of their homeland.

An administrative detention in Vietnamese law empowers local officials to commit perceived political or religious opponents to mental hospitals or “rehabilitation camps,” the groups said.

Once released, they said former political prisoners are subjected to probationary detention, which puts them under house arrest and constant police surveillance for up to five years.

Faulkner said Vietnam executes an average of 100 people a year, with capital punishment applied for 29 offences ranging from murder to economic crimes and treason.

Repression on religious grounds was also described in the group’s report as widespread, despite freedom of religion being guaranteed in the constitution.

The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, effectively banned since 1981, and ethnic Montagnards — the mainly Christian tribespeople from the Central Highlands who sided with U.S. forces during the Vietnam War — are the main victims, it said. (Editing by Laura MacInnis)

Western Donors Urge Vietnam To Respect Human Rights

Editor: Sharon Li
5 Dec 2008 08:35:00 GMT

HANOI (AFP)–The European Union and the United States on Thursday urged communist Vietnam to guarantee civil liberties, following the recent jailing of a journalist who helped uncover a major corruption case.

The European Union told Vietnam at an international donors meeting focused on Vietnam’s economy that it wanted to “underline that political and civil rights are equally important and should not be separated.”

“We strongly believe that by not respecting the political and civil rights, the path of progressive development will be seriously hampered” in Vietnam, the E.U. said in a statement.

The bloc said it “shares international concern” over the recent two-year jail term for newspaper journalist Nguyen Viet Chain, who had helped uncover a major corruption scandal in a transport ministry unit three years ago.

The U.S. said in its statement to the Consultative Group meeting that “Vietnam’s economic performance and its international reputation are compromised by restrictions placed upon the personal freedom of its citizens.”

“Greater tolerance of dissent and differing views are essential for the country to achieve its full potential,” it said.

Meanwhile, a group of four Western countries urged Vietnam “to continue to improve access to religion” in the Central Highlands, where unrest broke out in 2001 and 2004 fueled by land pressures in the coffee-growing region.

Rights groups say the government has repressed ethnic minorities practicing Christianity there because it links the religion to “hostile forces” in the United States, the communist government’s former wartime enemy.

The Western group – made up of Canada, Norway, Switzerland and New Zealand – said it had “noted some positive trends towards greater religious freedom in the region” during a visit to three provinces there last month.

Aso calls on Vietnam to back U.N. resolution on N. Korea

LIMA, Nov. 21 (AP) – (Kyodo)—Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso asked Vietnam on Friday to vote in favor of a U.N. resolution calling on North Korea to improve its human rights situation, a Japanese official said.

During a bilateral meeting in Lima, Aso told Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet that Japan wants to have sufficient support for the resolution to be adopted because North Korea’s decades-old abductions of Japanese nationals is a serious issue.

“I would like to have cooperation from Vietnam,” the senior foreign ministry official quoted Aso as saying during the 45-minute meeting, held ahead of the weekend summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the Peruvian capital.

The Vietnamese president responded, “I am very aware of the issue and will seriously consider” the request, according to the official.

A draft resolution demanding that North Korea end suspected human rights abuses has been submitted to the U.N. General Assembly every year since 2005. For the past three years, Vietnam has voted against adopting the resolution.

This year’s resolution is expected to be adopted next month.

UN calls for human rights to not be sacraficed

A new report from the United Nations Population Fund says universal human rights should not be compromised for cultural reasons.

The UNFPA report says women are dying for medical, as well as cultural reasons.

It says the challenge is to make development more culturally sensitive, to ensure overcome inequalities that harm women.

UNFPA representative, Ian Howie, says his current post in Vietnam provides a good example of cultural factors harming women.

“In the Hmong ethnic areas of Vietnam for example, women often choose a traditional birth at home or literally walk alone into the forest to give birth rather than go to a health clinic,” he said.

“Why do they do this? Because they don’t want to show their bodies to people who are not of their own ethnicity and who do not understand their culture.”

EU calls for reassessment of Vietnam rights dialogue

The European parliament says the European Union must reassess its cooperation with Vietnam over human rights.

The parliamentarians adopted a text, by 479 votes to 21, saying human rights dialogue between the EU and Vietnam must lead to tangible improvements in Vietnam.

They called on the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to reassess cooperation policy with Vietnam, based on respect for democratic principles and fundamental rights.

They denounced in particular religious intolerance, and called for the immediate release of all people imprisoned or detained for the peaceful expression of political or religious beliefs.

These include more than 300 Montagnard Christians, as well as Khmer Krom Buddhist monks, Catholics and adherents of the Cao Dai religion, as well as democracy activists, land rights petitioners and trade union leaders.

MEPs want progress on human rights before cooperation accord is signed 

In a resolution on EU-Vietnam relations, Parliament calls for Vietnam to be pressed to observe human rights and various key freedoms before a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU is finalised.

According to the resolution, which was adopted by 479 votes to 21 with 4 abstentions, freedom of assembly and of the press as well as internet access are severely restricted in Vietnam, while religious groups and ethnic minorities – such as Catholics, Buddhists and the Montagnard and Khmer minorities – suffer discrimination and persecution.

Better implementation of human rights under existing accord needed

Looking, firstly, to the current EU-Vietnam cooperation agreement, Parliament stresses that “the human rights dialogue between the European Union and Vietnam must lead to tangible improvements in Vietnam” and “asks the Council and the Commission to reassess cooperation policy with Vietnam, bearing in mind Article 1 of the 1995 Cooperation Agreement, which states that cooperation is based on respect for democratic principles and fundamental rights”.  It calls on the Commission “to establish clear benchmarks for the evaluation of the current development projects in Vietnam in order to ensure their compliance with the human rights and democracy clause”.

New agreement not to be finalised until rights violations stop

Secondly, MEPs urge the Commission and the Council, in the current negotiations for a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, “to raise with the Vietnamese side the need to stop the current systematic violation of democracy and human rights before the finalisation of the agreement”.

In particular, Parliament, which has a consultative role in the conclusion of the new agreement, wants Vietnam to be asked:

– to cooperate actively with UN human rights mechanisms, by inviting the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance to visit Vietnam;

– to release all people imprisoned or detained for the peaceful expression of political or religious beliefs;

– to allow independent religious organisations to freely conduct religious activities without government interference;

– to repeal provisions in Vietnamese law that criminalise dissent and certain religious activities on the basis of imprecisely defined ‘national security’ crimes;

– to end the Vietnamese Government’s censorship and control over the domestic media.

Vietnam: MEPs want progress on human rights before cooperation accord is signed

Vietnam Shows ‘Disturbing’ Disregard for Human Rights, Says U.S. Agency

A U.S. government body denounced Vietnam this past week for what it described as the continuation of a “disturbing” disregard for basic human rights.

Sun, Sep. 28, 2008 Posted: 09:28 AM EDT

A U.S. government body denounced Vietnam this past week for what it described as the continuation of a “disturbing” disregard for basic human rights.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)’s comments come as police in Vietnam continue to inflict violence against protestors at peaceful vigils on properties formerly owned by the Catholic Church of Vietnam.

Also, authorities had arrested religious freedom advocates and detained pro-democracy activists earlier this month.

“Too often in Vietnam, individuals who peacefully organize and express views about religious freedom and human rights – and the freedoms required to protect them – are detained, arrested, or intimidated,” said USCIRF Commission Chair Felice D. Gaer.

“As a member of the U.N. Security Council, Vietnam should be upholding human rights fully and should not view peaceful actions to advance religious freedom as a security threat,” she stated.

Since December, Catholics in Hanoi have been holding prayer vigils at Catholic church properties to demand they be return to the Church. The properties were seized by the communist government in the mid-1950s.

There have been brief clashes with police, but over the past three weeks police have detained as many as eight protestors at a former monastery, according to reports. Security personnel also used batons to break up a silent vigil seeking the release of those arrested.

At least 12 people were briefly detained following the vigil and one priest had serious injuries.

USCIRF said it received “disturbing” reports of the Vietnamese government’s accusations against Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, who it claims incited protests, and its threats to take “extreme actions” to end the peaceful vigils.

The U.S. agency in particular highlighted the case of Li Thi Cong Nhan, who met with USCIRF late last year.

“It is outrageous that Li Thi Cong Nhan was ever arrested in the first place, and that she hasn’t been released,” Gaer said. “She and all prisoners of concern in Vietnam should be released immediately, without conditions, and without the frequent follow-on sentence of house arrest that Vietnamese authorities use to restrict the freedom of rights advocates.”

The U.S. Commission calls on the State Department to re-designate Vietnam as one of the worst violators of religious freedom by labeling it a Country of Particular Concern, and to release unconditionally all prisoners of concern.

Ethan Cole
Christian Post Reporter

Vietnam Shows ‘Disturbing’ Disregard for Human Rights, Says U.S. Agency|