August 11 – August 18 Defender’s Weekly: Human Rights, lethal weapon and TPP

Defenders-weekly 18Defend the Defenders | 18/8/2014

Defenders’ Weekly

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Senator John McCain urged Vietnam to improve its human rights record at a press conference in Hanoi. He also said that the U.S. is considering removing lethal weapon embargo to Vietnam if Vietnam has improvement on human rights. On an occasion of the visit of Senators McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse to Vietnam, ten unsanctioned civil societies sent their petition to the senators, asking Washington pressure Hanoi on human rights issues and release 25 political prisoners before lifting arm sale ban.

As part of efforts to enhance Vietnam- the U.S. relations, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Army, visited Vietnam on Aug 13-16. General Dempsey unveiled that the U.S. may assist Vietnam in building its naval forces if the arm sale ban removed.

Regarding to Vietnam’s human rights situation, Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang said so far 255 American congressmen have officially objected Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement with Vietnam. However, human rights improvements without any setbacks may make the U.S. congressmen to change their mind and approve Vietnam’s participation in the pact.

During the recent trade negotiations between Vietnam and the EU, the 28-nation group has not discussed the human rights situation in the communist nation. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organization Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) have submitted a complaint to the EU Ombudsperson, asking her to address the European Commission’s refusal to take human rights into account in negotiations for trade and investment agreements with Vietnam.

Mr. Tran Bui Trung, a son of illegally-imprisoned social activist Bui Thi Minh Hang, met the Freedom House and the U.S. Department of State to urge them to conduct specific moves for his mother release. The Freedom House pledged to raise Ms. Hang’s issue with other human rights bodies. The U.S. Department of State also committed to closely watch the case and ask Hanoi to free her.



Release of political prisoners in exchange for lethal weapon embargo removal

Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, director of the Washington-based Boat People SOS (BPSOS) informed that with an active campaign of the Coalition for a Free and Democratic Vietnam (CFDV), 255 out of the 435 U.S.’s congressmen have officially protested the Vietnamese participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) so far. Most of them said the main reason is Vietnam’s violations of labor rights. A group of 36 congressmen said they object the Vietnamese participation in the pact due to Hanoi’s unfair competitiveness in apparel industry. Another group of 39 lawmakers have not officially protest Vietnam but did not agree with TPP.

With disagreement of over half of lawmakers in the U.S. Congress, Vietnam cannot be accepted in the TPP even its participation will be approved by the administration of President Barack Obama.

Vietnam has proposed the U.S. to give its five years so Hanoi can amend its Labor law to meet international standards, at least the rights of assembly, rights to establishment of independent trade union. Hanoi has also proposed a plan to give more authority to trade unions, which still belong to the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor in local level. However, the two proposals were rejected.

In 2008, Vietnam had a similar proposal but rejected by the U.S. when Hanoi wanted Washington to grant Generalized System of Preferences which allows the communist nation to export 5,000 products to the American market. During the past six years, Vietnam’s Labor Law is unchanged while the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor remained a organization under the communist party’s umbrella, contributing nothing to local laborers.

Vietnam’s human rights improvement is also be preposition conditions for the U.S. to remove its arm sale ban. Ted Osius, a nominee for the U.S.’s ambassador to Vietnam advocated for the ban removal, however, the lift will be taken after Hanoi has conducted specific moves to improve its human rights situation.

Mạch sống: Không trả tự do cho Tù Nhân Lương Tâm, không có TPP và võ khí sát thương


Vietnam Unlicensed Civil Societies Urge U.S. to Press Hanoi on Human Rights

On Aug 108, ten unregistered civil societies of Vietnam sent a joint petition to urge the U.S.’s Congress to press Hanoi on human rights before making any move to ease lethal weapon embargo imposed on the communist nation.

In their letter sent to Senators John McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse when they visited Vietnam on Aug 7-9, Civil Society Forum, the United Workers-Farmers Organization of Vietnam, the Association of Political & Religious Prisoners of Vietnam, the Brotherhood for Democracy, Bau Bi Tuong Than Association, No-U FC of Hanoi, No-U FC of Saigon, Followers of Hoa Hao Buddhist Church West branch, the Vietnam Path Movement and the Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment (VOICE) said the U.S. should not lift their arm sale ban unless Hanoi has a clear agenda of concrete and measurable actions in addressing urgent human rights issues.

The actions must include the removal of controversial security laws, respect for human rights defenders and immediate and unconditional release of all the prisoners of consciences, said the civil societies.

They also listed 25 political prisoners whom Hanoi should release. Among them are bloggers Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) and Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka AnhBaSam), lawyer Le Quoc Quan, independent labor activist Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, Catholic father Nguyen Van Ly, and independent journalist Ta Phong Tan.



Defend the DefendersVietnam Unlicensed Civil Societies Urge U.S. to Press Hanoi on Human Rights


Vietnam Should Improve Human Rights before U.S. Arms Ban Removal: McCain

Vietnam should improve its human rights situation if it wants the U.S. to lift the lethal weapon embargo, said Senator John McCain at a press conference in Hanoi during his five-day visit to the communist nation starting on Aug 7.

It is time for the U.S. to begin easing the lethal weapon embargo on Vietnam, however, this should not, and will not happen all at once, but should be limited at first to those defensive capacities purely for external security, such as coast guard and maritime systems.

However, the U.S. arms export to Vietnam will depend on additional action by Vietnam on human rights, said Senator McCain, who is a former prisoner during the Vietnam War.

The U.S. expects Vietnam to make bold actions, such as releasing prisoners of conscience, creating space for civil society, and ultimately by making it clear in law and policy that state power is limited and universal human rights – the freedom to speak, associate, worship, publish, and access information – are protected for all citizens, said the senator.

He expressed his hope that the U.S. and Vietnam will build a strategic partnership based on common goals and shared values in the near future.

The U.S. is ready to conclude a high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership with Vietnam as a full partner, said Senator McCain.

BBC: McCain nhắc nhở VN về dân chủ

The Saigon Times Daily: Vietnam wants stronger multi-faceted ties with U.S 

RFA: Vì sao Mỹ cần kế hoạch dỡ bỏ cấm bán vũ khí sát thương cho VN?


FIDH and VCHR Submit a Complaint to EU Ombudsperson

FIDH and its member organization VCHR have submitted a complaint to the EU Ombudsperson, asking her to address the European Commission’s refusal to take human rights into account in negotiations for trade and investment agreements with Vietnam.

Negotiations on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement are taking place against a backdrop of intensifying repression in Vietnam. In a fierce crackdown on freedom of expression, Vietnam prosecuted and imprisoned at least 65 bloggers and activists in 2013, and at least 14 more have been arrested in the first half of 2014. Scores of civil society activists were brutally beaten for staging peaceful demonstrations or holding human rights debates. Hundreds of dispossessed farmers were wounded and several others killed in massive protests over forced eviction and land confiscation.

“It is inadmissible that the Commission is negotiating a Free Trade Agreement without any regard for human rights in Vietnam. Over the past year, human rights abuses have reached a climax. Top EU officials have repeatedly denounced the harsh sentences of bloggers and human rights defenders, yet the Commission proposes “business as usual” – and even upgrading trade relations with Vietnam, said FIDH and VCHR.

The two human rights bodies called on the Ombudsperson to address this and to help put human rights back at the centre of the EU-Vietnam relationship, said VCHR President Vo Van Ai.

Trade and investment agreements have the potential to exacerbate human rights violations in the context of labor rights, access to land and natural resources or when recourse mechanisms are designed to protect investors and not affected communities.

“These human rights violations can be prevented by conducting human rights impact assessments and by including safeguards in trade and investment agreements that address violations and offer redress mechanisms”, said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “We believe that the European Commission’s refusal to carry out human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) is inconsistent with its legal obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights”, he added.

Despite numerous calls by FIDH and VCHR and a resolution of the European Parliament for the European Commission to include HRIAs in the ongoing trade and investment negotiations with Vietnam, the EU Commissioner for Trade stated that the Commission did not “envisage carrying out a specific human rights impact assessment for the EU-Vietnam FTA”. FIDH and VCHR believe that the European Commission’s refusal constitutes a case of maladministration. The two organizations urge the EU Ombudsperson to address the situation and recommend that the European Commission review it.

Quê mẹ: Thông cáo chung của Liên Đoàn Quốc tế Nhân quyền và Uỷ ban Bảo vệ Quyền Làm Người Việt Nam khiếu kiện việc Liên Âu từ chối đặt vấn đề Nhân quyền khi thương thảo với Hà Nội

VOVworld: EU hopes to support Vietnam’s development 

VOA: EU hy vọng sớm chung quyết đàm phán tự do mậu dịch với Việt Nam

VOA: Rights Group Files Complaint Over EU-Vietnam Trade Talks

RFA: Đại diện LĐQT Nhân quyền trả lời RFA về vụ kiện Ủy hội Châu Âu 


Freedom Pledges to Voice about Bui Thi Minh Hang case

On Aug 12, Tran Bui Trung, a son of imprisoned Vietnamese activist Bui Thi Minh Hang, met with representative of the Washington-based Freedom House, asking the organization to voice about his mother case.

His trip to the U.S. aims to ask the U.S. and international bodies to express their concerns about Vietnam’s prisoners of conscience, including Ms. Hang, one of the most active advocate for land rights and human rights.

Freedom House representatives, Mr. William Ford and Mrs. Bee Shan asked Trung about hí mother case. They very surprised to know that Ms. Hang was arrested on charge of conducting social disorder, and the Vietnamese authorities’ refusal to allow her to meet relatives and receive family’s goods. They also expressed their concerns about her health after a number of hunger strikes.

Freedom House said they will cooperate with other human rights bodies to issue a joint statement on Mrs. Hang’s case to demand Vietnam to respect international human rights standards as well as other international conventions that Hanoi has signed to ensure fair legal procedures in her coming trial scheduled on Aug 26.

Con đường Việt Nam: Freedom House sẽ lên tiếng về vụ án Bùi Thị Minh Hằng

Con duong Viet Nam: Seeking Justice for My Mother! 

RFA: Con trai bà Bùi Hằng sang Mỹ vận động cho Mẹ


Lien Tri Pagoda donates gifts for Vietnam Republic’s war invalids and poor people

The Saigon-based Lien Tri Pagoda on Aug 7 donated gifts for the poor people and invalids of the Vietnam Republic’s Army. As many as 30 military invalids and 300 poor people received gifts which consist of 5 kg of rice, noodle, soybean sauce and cooking oil, and VND100,000 for invalids and VND10,000 for the poor.

Defend the Defenders: Buổi Phát Quà cho Thương Phế Binh Việt Nam Cộng Hòa và Người Nghèo nhân mùa Vu Lan 2014 tại chùa Liên Trì


Social Insurance Fund May Go Bankrupt if Law on Social Insurance Approved: NA Chairman

Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung of Vietnam’s legislative body National Assembly said the country’s Social Insurance Fund may go bankrupt if the parliament passes the law on social insurance.

According to the draft law on social insurance, along with buying government bonds, T-bills, and bonds of commercial banks, the Social Insurance Fund can deposit in commercial banks, invest in the country’s major projects, and conduct other investments, including trusted investment.

The Social Insurance Fund is not professional investor so it is dangerous for it to make trusted investment, Hung said.

In May, the fund reported that it failed to take revenues of VND42 trillion.

Ho Chi Minh City-based economist Pham Chi Dung said the Social Insurance Fund will go bankrupt soon or later since it get revenues from one fourth of laborers. Its spending is larger than revenues and mismanagement of the fund will be main reason for its bankruptcy.

Một thế giới: Chủ tịch Nguyễn Sinh Hùng lo vỡ quĩ BHXH nếu Quốc hội thông qua dự thảo luật BHXH 

VOA: Quỹ lương hưu trước nguy biến tràn vỡ


U.S. Department of State Pledges To Closely Watch Bui Thi Minh Hang Case

On Aug 13, Mr. Tran Bui Trung and lawyer Vi K Tran met two senior officials of the U.S. Department of State to talk about Mrs. Hang’s arrest and her coming trial set for Aug 26.

The U.S. officials said Washington asked Hanoi to release political prisoners, including Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka AnhBaSam), Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) and Bui Thi Minh Hang during the two countries’ Human Rights Dialogue in May and other high-ranking meetings.

They affirmed that the U.S. considers human rights improvement as the main conditions for TPP’s approval and removal of lethal weapon embargo.

Washington is closely monitoring Mrs. Hang’s case, they said.

In turn, Trung proposed the U.S. to ask Hanoi to respect its law and ensure independent procuracy and court. He expressed his hope that the U.S. to negotiate with Vietnam, demanding it to stop harassment against peaceful activists and political dissidents.



Cao Dai Buddhist Followers Attacked With Dirty Bomb during Praying

More than 100 followers of unlicensed Cao Dai Buddhist in Hao Duoc commune in Chau Thanh district in Tay Ninh province on Aug 13 were harassed by local authorities and attacked with dirty bomb by mobs when they were praying in private houses.

The dirty was made of fish source and human feces, said clerk Nguyen Xuan Mai, adding local authorities warned followers not to gather prior to the praying ceremony.

This is the first attack against religious people with dirty bomb. Earlier, Vietnam’s security forces used the same method to harass political dissidents and social activists nationwide.

RFA: Tín hữu Cao Đài bị sách nhiễu, ném “bom bẩn” khi cúng lễ 

RFACao Dai Group Targeted With Feces by Vietnamese Authorities


Hundreds of Vietnamese Protest Police Torture in Central Province

On the evening of Aug 12, family members of Le Van Cuong and hundreds residents in Van Cu village in Huong Toan commune in Huong Tra district gathered at the house of village policeman Nguyen Xuan Dao after learning that Mr. Cuong was illegally detained by Mr. Dao and was later severely beaten by three policemen.

The gathering forced authorities in Huong Toan commune to pledge to fully investigate the case, in which Mr. Cuong said he was tortured by two policemen from Huong Tra district and one policeman from the commune in the local police station.

Mr. Cuong said they accused him of stealing a personal computer of one local resident.

Medical check showed that Mr. Cuong received serious injuries on many body parts, including head, stomach and legs. The policemen handcuffed him during the interrogation.

The police and procurary in Huong Tra district are investigating the case and have refused to give any information to reporters on the case.

This case is among many others that show rising power abuse of Vietnam’s police in the past few years. In some cases, brutality during police detention even caused the deaths of local residents.

In early August, a policeman in the northern province of Tuyen Quang attacked a local resident with his baton, causing serious injury to the man who died several hours later. The policeman, whose name is not unveiled, attacked 39-year-old Nguyen Van Tuan when Mr. Tuan was riding his motorbike without helmet in his Khe Thuyen village in Van Phu commune in Son Duong district.

Mr. Tuan’s death is the 14th caused by police’s power abuse nationwide since the beginning of this year, according to human rights bodies.

In 2011, Hanoi’s police also beat to death Trinh Xuan Tung due to a minor traffic fault. After his death, his daughter set up a campaign called “Stop Police killing civilians.”

In the communist nation, the police play an important role to protect the one-party regime.

Recently, Vietnam signed the UN Convention against Torture.

Dân việt: Hàng trăm người quây nhà công an vì cho rằng đánh dân vô cớ 

Tin ngắn: Hàng trăm người vây nhà công an viên ‘hỏi tội’

PLO: Nghi trộm, một người bị công an đánh 


U.S. General Martin Dempsey Made Historic Visit to Vietnam

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Army, made his historic visit to Vietnam on Aug 13-16. His trip to the communist nation, the first visit of the U.S. military chief since 1971, is part of busy visit exchange between the two countries in recent months.

It is expected U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to come to the communist nation in September to deepen defense cooperation.

The story started in April last year with a friend exchange between three U.S. naval ships and Vietnam People’s Navy in Danang city. However, the two countries’ dialogue on human rights just started then and no results were made.

However, the situation has changed fast recently after China illegally deployed HYSY-981 oil rig and escorting naval ships and armed surveillance vessels in Vietnam’s exclusive economic waters, the two countries have boosted naval ties. In early this year, U.S. naval forces held a meeting with students in Danang and conducted charity activities in the city.

BBC: Đại tướng Mỹ Martin Dempsey thăm VN

VOA: P/v nhà báo Phạm Chí Dũng về chuyến đi thăm VN của Đại Tướng Mỹ


Song Doc Policemen Severely Beat Two Teenagers

On Aug 13, two teenagers named Khang and Tai rode their motorbike  to Song Doc commune. Passing the main street, they saw policemen and ran away. Policemen chased and caught the couple when they fell to the ground. The policemen tied them with handcuffs and beat them brutally, and detained them until 11.00 pm when their families came to take them.

Khang and Tai were brought to local hospital for health check while their families filled petition denouncing the police abuse.

Song Doc commune’s authorities pledged to investigate the case.

Zing: Công an thị trấn Sông Đốc bị tố đánh 2 thiếu niên


Vietnam Women for Human Rights Representatives Visit Former Hmong Prisoner of Conscience

On Aug 13, representatives of the Vietnam Women for Human Rights visited Mr. Duong Van Minh, a former Hmong prisoner of conscience who is in Saigon for medical treatment.

Mr. Minh, a founder of modern religion, was sentenced with a five-year imprisonment between 1990 and 1995. He is under medical treatment for kidney failure in Saigon as hospitals in Hanoi and other northern province refused to provide medical services for him.

While in Saigon for medical treatment, he is under close surveillance of local security forces.

The Vietnam Women for Human Rights gift him presents and VND2 million for house renting.

Vnwhr: Viếng thăm người H’ mông Tuyên Quang ngay tại Sài Gòn


Vietnam Tries to Prevent Political Opposition Parties from Births

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has requested the security forces to make all efforts to prevent political opposition organizations from being born in order to maintain the country’s stability, state media reported.

Speaking at a meeting in Hanoi on Aug 16 on the 69th anniversary of the police forces, he demanded the police to thwart schemes of “hostile forces,” which refer to organizations which ask for more than basic freedom and human rights.

He also asked the police to effectively deal with organized criminal rings amid an economic slowdown.

In turn, Minister of Public Security General Tran Dai Quang pledged to “prevent and push back plans and attempts that could cause political instability in the country.”

In the one-party regime, the police is empowered to deal with any discontent, which has been rising due to the government’s systemic corruption, economic mismanagement and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea.

Many independent civil societies, established without the approval of the authorities, have demanded the communist government to conduct political reforms and grant more human rights which are enshrined in the country’s Constitution.

The Vietnamese communists, who have ruled the country in 69 past years, vow to keep the nation under the one-party regime. It uses controversial laws, such as Articles 79, 88 and 258 of the Penal Code to suppress political dissent.

According to international human rights bodies, Vietnam holds between 150 and 200 political prisoners. Hanoi always denies this accusation, saying that it holds only law-violators.

Pháp luật: Đại tướng Trần Đại Quang: Không để hình thành tổ chức chính trị đối lập trong nội địa 

Quân đội nhân dân: Gặp mặt nhân kỷ niệm 69 năm Ngày truyền thống Công an nhân dân

Quân đội nhân dân: Không ai được nhân danh tự do để thực hiện mưu đồ xấu


U.S. May Assist Vietnam in Building Its Naval Forces: General Dempsey

Speaking with reporters in Saigon, General Martin Dempsey said there will be a discussion soon in the U.S. on whether Washington will lift its lethal weapon embargo imposed on Vietnam 35 years ago despite concerns over human rights in the communist nation.

During his four-day trip to Vietnam on Aug 13-16, the chief of … met Vietnamese defense officials to discuss on enhancing military bilateral cooperation. Currently, Vietnam and the U.S. have limited defense ties since the latter country still imposes arm ban sale to the former’s.

In his statement in Saigon, General Dempsey said he will not ask Vietnam to choose making friend with the U.S. and China. He also reaffirmed that the U.S. will not take sides regarding territorial disputes in the East Sea.

He said he disappointed the Chinese refusal to restrain from aggresive activities in the disputed areas.

RFI: Tướng Dempsey tuyên bố Mỹ có thể giúp Việt Nam xây dựng hải quân

NY Times: In China’s Shadow, U.S. Courts Old Foe Vietnam

BBC: Đại tướng Mỹ Martin Dempsey thăm VN 


Prisoner of Conscience Dang Xuan Dieu Faces Continuous Harassment

In the Yen Dinh 5 prison in the central province of Thanh Hoa, authorities continue to harass prisoner of conscience Dang Xuan Dieu. His family members said that they couldn’t meet him on Aug 12 when they came to visit him. He wrote a letter saying he has been refused to be supplied with lunch during 142 past days. The prison provides him with limited volume of drinking water which is very dirty.

Mr. Dang Xuan Ha, a son of prisoner of conscience Dieu said that his father refused to meet family members to protest the prison’s inhuman treatment. In his letter, Mr. Dieu reported that he was disciplined by the prison authorities in ten days to stay in isolated cell on an occasion of the New Year festival.

Mr. Ha wrote a letter to his father, saying the family is concerned about his health and wants to see him.

The family sent its letter to Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief when he visited Vietnam on July 21-31, asking him to pay a special attention to Mr. Dieu’s case.

Mr. Dieu was arrested on July 30, 2011 and sentenced for 13 years in jail and five years under probation period with a charge to conduct activities aiming to overthrow the people’s government according to Article 79 of the Criminal Code at a trial held in the central province of Nghe An on Jan 8-9 last year.

Thanh niên công giáo: TNLT Đặng Xuân Diệu Tiếp Tục Bị Đe Dọa

Summary by Nguyen Thanh Thuy

Translation by [rollinglinks]Vu Quoc Ngu[/rollinglinks]