July 28, 2014
July 21-27 Defender’s Weekly: Vietnamese activists have been barred from meeting with UN Special rapporteur on religious freedom
Defend the Defenders | 28/7/2014
UN Special rapporteur on religious freedom Heiner Bielefeldt came to Vietnam to investigate the country’s religious freedom. He invited many religious representatives to meet him, however, the invited were blocked from coming to the meeting. Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security has proposed a controversial law which will empower policemen in grassroot level, allowing them conducting initial investigations in criminal cases in their localities. Many experts and social activists were concerned that it will enhance power abuse of policemen since a number of people died during detaining period in police stations. During the past few weeks, many Vietnamese activists claimed that they couldn’t log in their Facebook accounts due to abuse report made by pro-government Vietnamese activists. The issue was solved after Vietnamese American activists worked with Facebook administrators. Human Rights Watch issued a statement demanding Australia’s government to press Vietnam on human rights issue on the annual human rights dialogue between the two countries on July 28. And other interesting news during the week.
Policemen in communes, wards are empowered to conduct initial investigations?
One controversial proposal in a draft law on Organization of crime investigating agency of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security has empowered policemen in the grassroot level to conduct initial investigations in criminal cases in their localities.
Truong Quoc Hung, an official from the ministry’s Legal Department said policemen in communes and wards work closely to people so they should be allowed to conducting some initial investigations.
However, the proposal triggered concerns among experts and social activists. Mr. Nguyen Dinh Quyen, vice chairman of the Legal Affairs Commission of Vietnam’s legislative body National Assembly questioned which is state agency to supervise works of policemen in the grassroot level in handling information on crimes in their localities. Policemen in communes and wards are not well trained and they may violate human rights as well as leak information if they are allowed to conducting initial investigations, he said.
Initial investigation should be conducted by special units which are well-trained, he urged.
Meanwhile, ordinary residents fear that the move could harbor power abuses among the grass-root policemen after a number of deaths which were blamed for interrogation and tortures by policemen, including the serious case in Bac Giaing, Hai Duong, Dak Lak, Binh Duong provinces and Danang city.
According to human rights bodies, 11 Vietnamese have been killed in police stations since the beginning of 2014. In June, three Vietnamese died from local police torture.
Vietnam ratified the UN Convention against Torture in May.
Defend the Defenders: Concerns Raised as Vietnam May Empower Commune Police
No clue on release of AnhBaSam
On July 21, journalist Pham Chi Dung on his article posted on Vietnam Thoi Bao said Mr. Nguyen Huu Vinh or AnhBaSam may be freed soon. However, Mr. Vinh’s lawyer Ha Huy Son said the news is baseless.
Mr. Vinh was arrested in March, together with his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, with a charge of “abusing democratic rights” according to Article 258 of the Criminal Code.
Abuse report against Vietnamese social activists ends
A number of Vietnamese political dissidents and social activists, with nicknames Nguyen Xuan Dien, Nguyen Lan Thang, Nguoi Buon Gio, Doan Trang, Hoang Dung Cdvn and others, claimed that they couldn’t log in their Facebook accounts during the past two weeks.
Many people said the problem was caused by abuse reports made by Vietnamese pro-government people. Some Vietnamese American activists went to Facebook administration office in California to report the problem, in addition to a petition signed by Vietnamese activists to the U.S.-based company.
As of July 21, most of affected Facebook accounts were back on normal operation.
Security forces in Long An province continues harassments against Facebookers
On July 18, Long An province’s police sent an invitation summoning Mr. Dinh Nhat Uy to work for using his personal Facebook. Knowing the news, local online activists expressed their disappointment with Long An police.
On July 22, at a police investigating agency in Long An province, Mr. Uy said he came to the meeting because he has promised in an open letter, and wants to show the legality of Facebook. He affirmed that he will not come if he is invited against.
Facebook Uy Long An: BỊ MỜI LÀM VIỆC VÌ FACEBOOK – BUỔI TIẾP XÚC NGẮN GỌN
Artist Kim Chi rejected by Vietnam Cinema Association
In May, artist Kim Chi and some Vietnamese bloggers worked in the U.S. on freedom of expression on an occasion of the World Press Freedom. After coming back to the home country, they have continuously been harassed by Vietnam’s security. Mrs. Kim Chi was rejected by the Vietnam Cinema Association as its member.
Radio Chân Trời Mới: Nghệ sĩ Kim Chi bị Hội Nghệ sĩ Sân Khấu Việt Nam khai trừ
United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief works in Vietnam
UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt started his 11-day working trip to Vietnam on July 21 to check how good Hanoi does in protecting people’s rights to free religious practices in order to make a report for the UN’s Human Rights Council.
Mr. Bielefeldt will also see representatives of religious communities, civil society organizations and UN workers during the trip.
The rapporteur is scheduled to highlight obstacles to this fundamental right at a press conference in Hanoi on July 31. His report will be made public next year.
It is said that he will mention Decree 92 on regulating religious activities and organizations, which was introduced in 2012 and took effect in 2013, as a matter of concern.
Decree 92 has been widely criticized for its restrictions on religious sect establishment and freedom of religious practices, the rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in London on July 21.
The decree with vague and ambiguous language enables local authorities to tighten control on free religious practices, CSW said, adding that the Vietnamese government has intensified crackdown on freedom of religion with repeated harassment, intimidation and intrusive monitoring, arrest, imprisonment, torture and extra-judicial killings in Vietnam since the decree took effect.
Communities that suffered include Protestants, Catholics, Hoa Hao and other Buddhists, Caodaists, and Cham Muslims, said CSW.
U.S. Senate Committee for Foreign Relations approves on civil nuclear agreement with Vietnam
The Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate on July 22 passed an agreement on using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, paving the way for American companies to export modern nuclear technologies to the Southeast Asian nation.
The 123 Agreement, signed by Vietnamese Minister of Science and Technology Nguyen Quan and U.S. Ambassador David Shear on May 6 this year, was initiated by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and Secretary of State John Kerry on Oct. 10 last year on the sidelines of the 23rd ASEAN Summit in Brunei.
The agreement, already approved by President Barack Obama, is waiting for approval from the Senate.
Vietnam also signed a non-binding memorandum with the U.S., pledging not to enrich uranium itself or reprocess plutonium which can be used to develop nuclear weapons.
The agreement aims to create a legal framework for enhancing cooperation between Vietnam and its U.S. partners in research, training, development and application of nuclear energy.
The 30-year deal will open up great prospects for both countries to expedite specific cooperation projects in radiation application and the development of nuclear power for the socio-economic growth of each country.
Vietnam, despite lacking financial resources and expertise, has an ambitious program to build ten nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 10,700 MW by 2030. Its nuclear power market is deemed the second largest in Southeast Asia with an estimated turnover of $50 billion in the next two decades.
Vietnam Plus: Mỹ thông qua thỏa thuận hạt nhân dân sự với Việt Nam
Vietnam Plus: US Senate body ratifies civilian nuke deal with Vietnam
Australia: Press Vietnam to Respect Rights
The international Human Rights Watch stated that Australia should use the upcoming Australia-Vietnam human rights dialogue to press the Vietnamese government to make concrete and measurable improvements in its abysmal human rights record. These include promptly releasing all political prisoners and ending restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association, and religion.
The 11th human rights dialogue between Australia and Vietnam, the first for the government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is scheduled in Hanoi on July 28.
Australia Network News: Human Rights Watch Australia director says Vietnam has a ‘dark side’
Vietnam Communist Politburo Member Visits U.S. to Boost Ties
A Vietnamese high-ranking delegation, led by Politburo member of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Pham Quang Nghi, is visiting the U.S. from July 21 in a bid to enhance bilateral cooperation, state media reported.
During the visit made at the invitation of the U.S. Department of State, Mr. Nghi met a number of politicians, including President Pro Tempore of the Senate Patrick Leahy, Senator John McCain, Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, and Counselor to Secretary of State Thomas Shannon.
Mr. Nghi, who is also the communist party’s secretary in the capital city of Hanoi, met with President of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) Kenneth Wollack and President of the International Republican Institute (IRI) Mark Green.
At the meetings with the hosts, Mr. Nghi said that Vietnam values and continuously fosters cooperation ties with the U.S. in the spirit of the comprehensive partnership signed in Washington during the visit of President Truong Tan Sang last July.
He also asked the U.S. to further open its market for Vietnamese products, reduce trade barriers, encourage American investment in Vietnam and recognize the country’s market economy status.
Saigon-based activists barred from meeting with UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion
UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt started his 11-day working trip to Vietnam on July 21. He invited many local religious representatives in Saigon to meet him, however, the invited people were blocked from going out.
Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, one prominent political dissident said Mr. Bielefeldt came to Saigon on July 25. In early morning of the same day, three policemen in plain clothe blocked his house. When he went out for sport exercise, they followed him. They continued their surveillance near his house during the day.
Other activists, including independent journalist Pham Chi Dung and former political prisoner Pham Ba Hai were also blocked by policemen.
Summary by Nguyen Thanh Thuy
Translation by [rollinglinks]Vu Quoc Ngu[/rollinglinks]