Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly August 10-16: Kerry Tells Vietnam that U.S. Ties Will Deepen if Human Rights Are Protected
Defenders’ Weekly | Aug 16, 2015
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During his meetings with Vietnamese officials in Hanoi on August 8, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Vietnam’s improvements in human rights would lead to deeper ties between the two nations. Progress on human rights and the rule of law will provide the foundation for a deeper and more sustainable strategy and strategic partnership between the U.S. and Vietnam, he noted.
At the same time, Tom Malinowsk, his assistant secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, told activists in Hanoi that the U.S. will put increasing emphasis on human rights as relations between Washington and Hanoi develop.
Several days prior to the Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue slated on August 14, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a statement urging Canberra to set clear benchmarks for human rights improvement in the dialogue
On the occasion, Australian Member of Parliament Bernie Ripoll wrote a letter to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to raise concern of three Vietnamese imprisoned activists Ho Duc Hoa, Dang Xuan Dieu and Nguyen Dang Minh Man.
This week, the Standing Committee of Vietnam’s legislative body National Assembly works on the draft law on referendum, agreeing on major points of the bill. It agreed that referenda should be conducted on the country’s Constitution, defense and diplomacy issues which play important roles in the country’s existence and development, principles of the state of law and people’s democracy, and major socio-economic issues.
Prominent political dissident Ta Phong Tan, who is serving her ten-year imprisonment on the allegation of anti-state propaganda, rejected to live in exile in the U.S. as Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security proposed, saying she is not guilty so she will not beg for mercy from the communist government.
and many other important human rights news.
Kerry Tells Vietnam That U.S. Ties Will Deepen if Human Rights Are Protected
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a group of Vietnamese officials and business leaders on August 8 that improvements in human rights in Vietnam would lead to deeper ties.
“Progress on human rights and the rule of law will provide the foundation for a deeper and more sustainable strategy and strategic partnership between the U.S. and Vietnam,” Mr. Kerry said in a speech marking the 20th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic ties between the wartime adversaries.
“Only you can decide the pace and the direction of this process of building this partnership, but I’m sure you’ve noticed that America’s closest partnerships in the world are with countries that share a commitment to certain values,” he added.
Mr. Kerry also spoke of the challenges the two countries still face, especially over human rights. While the number of political prosecutions in Vietnam has declined somewhat, Vietnam is still an authoritarian, one-party state, and American officials say legal reforms are needed.
Mr. Kerry emphasized the importance of allowing independent labor unions, as the Pacific trade pact that is under negotiation requires.
“The U.S. recognizes that only the Vietnamese people can determine their political system,” he said. “But there are basic principles we will always defend: No one should be punished for speaking their mind so long as they are peaceful; and if trading goods flow freely between us, so should information and ideas.”
In a joint news conference later in the day with Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh, Mr. Kerry said that the country had taken some positive steps on human rights, including ratifying an international convention against torture and releasing a dozen “prisoners of conscience” last year.
But Mr. Kerry said the U.S. would not take additional steps to ease the arms embargo on Vietnam unless the country’s human rights record improved.
Mr. Minh asserted that his government was taking steps to improve its legal system but added that the country’s human rights record should be viewed in its “cultural context.”
“We hope the U.S. will fully lift the embargo on lethal weapons,” Mr. Minh said through an interpreter.
Australian MP Bernie Ripoll Raises Concern about Three Vietnamese Activists to Foreign Minister Bishop
Australian Member of Parliament Bernie Ripoll wrote a letter to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop raises concern of three detained activists in Vietnam to be brought up during the next Australian-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue.
The Hon Julie Bishop MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600
7 August 2015
I write to you in relation to Ho Duc Hoa, Dang Xuan Dieu and Nguyen Dang Minh Man whom have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms in Vietnam for allegedly ‘Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the People’s Government’ under Article 79 of the Penal Code.
They were arrested on 30 July 2011, together with 12 others from the Catholic Church, for their involvement in mobilizing support and education for children living in poverty. The group were detained for close to two years under unspecified charges before being officially sentenced.
This case has received great international attention with the United Nations Human Rights Office also expressing serious concerns over their vague convictions and outrageously lengthy sentences.
As Australians, we believe in the protection and promotion of individual human rights which is vital to global efforts to achieve lasting peace, security, freedom and dignity for all. We are committed to human rights as a reflection of our national values whereby a person’s liberty and freedoms are respected.
Given Australia’s role as a principal advocate for human rights, it would be greatly appreciated if you could ensure these individual cases are raised when we next participate in the Australian-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue.
I would also ask that you contact the Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and request that he honor the commitments to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Vietnam is a signatory, and release Ho Duc Hoa, Dang Xuan Dieu and Nguyen Dang Minh Man.
I look forward to your response.
Bernie Ripoll MP
Federal Member for Oxley
Shadow Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation
Shadow Minister for Sport
Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader for Small Business
U.S. to put more focus on human rights – Malinowski
Senior U.S. officials have told activists in Hanoi that they will put increasing emphasis on human rights as relations between Washington and Hanoi develop.
In a meeting with independent bloggers and other government critics, the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Tom Malinowski, said he was under no illusions about the attitude of the Vietnamese government.
But he said the U.S. would continue to press for more freedom of expression and would use the negotiations for the proposed Trans- Pacific Partnership or TPP to further its case.
“We are very realistic about this. I’m not certain that our strategy will work. Because we talk to you and other activists, we know what happens,” he said in a meeting at the US embassy while the Secretary of State, John Kerry, was holding talks with top officials.
“We know that on the last day of my recent human rights dialogue trip, the blogger Anh Chi was beaten up because he tried to save the trees in Hanoi.”
Mr. Malinowski said the government had told the visiting Americans at the time that it was taking the views of activists into account.
“But we know what happened. So you see, we have no illusions about this. It’s going to be very difficult and we may not succeed. But we think we have a chance to take some steps forward and when we succeed in taking some steps forward, you will be able to take more.”
Mr. Kerry made clear during his talks in Vietnam that real progress was needed on human rights before the US would further relax its ban on the sale of weapons to Vietnam.
Some sales were allowed for the Vietnamese coastguard last year but Mr. Kerry said that only an improvement in the political climate in Vietnam would lead to a deeper and more sustainable partnership with Washington.
Mr. Malinowski had also met activists in Ho Chi Minh City despite attempts by the authorities to stop some attending. They included representatives of independent religious groups.
He said that a TPP agreement was getting closer but it would not be made too easy for the Vietnamese government.
“We want to show the government of Vietnam that they have to work for the TPP, and they will have to work for the TPP because when the treaty is presented to our Congress, many members will be asking questions about human rights in Vietnam.”
Mr. Malinowski said the aim was to convince the Vietnamese government that its future lay in better relations to the US.
“We want to encourage them to feel comfortable in that kind of partnership, which includes many factors, including our advocacy for human rights and democracy. So having the General Secretary in Washington was a way of making them comfortable about the future, a way we hope of managing the fear of change. Because I think they are more afraid of you than you are afraid of them. We are finding a way to manage that fear.”
He said leaders in less democratic systems tended to fear change more and they became insecure when they were not popular and began to fear revolutions and coups.
“At the same time, changes happen. You have thousands of people reading your blog, right? There are grassroots campaigns that people are involved in. Millions of people are on Facebook. Workers are going on strike. And so I think they are also afraid of getting left behind. I think they are caught between two different kinds of fear, and what we need to do is to encourage them to feel more secure in embracing that change.”
The US Ambassador Ted Osius was also present at the meeting.
He said embassy officials would maintain close contact with activists to monitor progress.
“You know if we only talked to the government then we would eventually think everything was fine.”
“So one way we monitor is to stay in very close contact with activists, lawyers, journalists and bloggers throughout the country.”
“Now some of these obligations will be more formal especially those related to labour. Those we’ll take particular care of in monitoring and there may be some mechanisms in TPP that will help us monitor the compliance,” he said.
Ambassador Osius said that the embassy had full time staff devoted to human rights and would continue to be vigilant.
The blogger, Anh Chi, said that they did not want to set up groups that were under the control of the government and wanted to focus on the right to freedom of association.
Mr Malinowski said they were looking very closely at the law of association and that the first draft produced by the government did not look very good.
“In some way it resembles the Chinese law. Unfortunately it looks like the process of reviewing and adopting that law will take some months until next year. We will engage the government to try to change the draft so they allow as great as possible freedom of association.”
“The Association Law is not just the U.S. urging the Vietnamese government to improve that law. It’s also 15 other countries. So we have active engagement, not just us but also 15 other countries,” said the Mr. Osius.
“But we have ongoing courses on the TPP, the highest level discussions about how Vietnam will implement the international commitment to freedom of association. I think we see the possibility of some real changes as a result of the TPP negotiation,” he said.
However Mr. Malinowski stressed the US negotiators had to be realistic and there was a line that could not be crossed over the freedom to organizelabor unions.
“When we talk about freedom of association for labor unions to link up to each other and link up internationally, that’s an international standard that Vietnam, I think, will be able to comply with. What concerns Vietnam is when the line is crossed and it becomes an effort to change the government. And in our negotiations we have to be respectful of those concerns because once it amounts to a change of the government, no government will go along with the plan that means there will be change.”
Vietnamrightnow: US to put more focus on human rights – Malinowski
Mekong Delta Land Rights Activist Released after Five Years in Prison
Vietnamese authorities released a land activist from prison on August 10, where he was serving a five-year sentence for attempting to overthrow the government.
Duong Kim Khai, pastor of a Mennonite church offshoot known as the Cow Shed Church, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that despite his release, he has no home to return to.
After he was released at 6 a.m., police drove him to the bus station in the Binh Thanh district of Ho Chi Minh City, he said.
“An official called Ward 27 where my household is registered, but because I did not have a house right there anymore, the police in Ward 27 would not allow me to stay there,” he said. “I still have five years under house arrest, but no place to live. They did not accept that I have no place to reside and that I do not have a house.”
Khai had helped land rights petitioners from the Mekong Delta file complaints with local, provincial, and national officials after their land was seized by local authorities and sold to developers.
He was arrested in August 2010 and convicted along with six other land rights activists of “attempting to overthrow the people’s administration” by the Ben Tre province’s People’s Court in May 2011.
Khai received a sentence of six years in prison and five years of probation.
Although the Vietnamese government recognizes the Mennonite Church, it did not recognize Khai’s unsanctioned Christian house church, which had about 10,000 members.
After officials had seized his house of worship, he moved his congregation to the cattle barn of one of his supporters in Ho Chi Minh City.
In August 2011, Khai’s sentence was reduced by a year at an appeals trial in Ben Tre province.
Supporters and members of his church were prohibited from entering the courthouse, which was surrounded by a heavy police presence during the trial.
Khai told RFA he refused to admit to charges that he tried “to overthrow the government of the people” instead of “overthrow the government of the Communist Party.”
Vietnam Defense Minister Requests Army to Be Cautious to Ensure Social Order
The Vietnam People’s Army must be well prepared to deal with all circumstances in order to ensure security and social orders, said Defense Minister General Phung Quang Thanh.
Speaking at a conference of the Central Military Committee in Hanoi on August 11, General Thanh requested army unit leaders to take all measures to ensure internal protection amid rising social dissatisfaction.
The army has an important rolein dealing with “reactionary forces”, he noted.
The conference had not discussed new developments in the East Sea, where China has conducted numerous aggressive acts which violate Vietnam’s sovereignty in the resource-rich sea.
Recently, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Public Security have held a number of joint meetings, committing to close coordination to ensure social orders.
In late July, China held a large-scale live naval drill in the East Sea, targeting Vietnam in the sea and the U.S. in the East China Sea.
China has constructed numerous artificial islands and military facilities, including a $3 billion airstrip on Truong Sa (Spratlys), one of the two archipelagosVietnam has peacefully administered before the 17th century.
Beijing has sent tens of thousands of fishing boats into the East Sea, which are armed and can open fire at any moment, experts said.
Vietnam has verbally protested China’s aggressive moves in the East Sea. However, no specific moves were recorded.
Vietnam NA Standing Committee Debates Draft Law on Referendum
The Standing Committee of Vietnam’s legislative body National Assembly has worked on the draft law on referendum, agreeing on major points of the bill.
The committee agreed that referenda should be conducted on the country’s Constitution, defense and diplomacy issues whichare important to the country’s existence and development, principles of the state of law and people’s democracy, and major socio-economic issues.
A referendum can be considered legal when over 75% of the voters participate in the poll and the result is the decision of the majority in the referendum, legislators said.
The Standing Committee will be the state agency to conduct referenda upon request of the parliament, which has power to announce the result of referenda.
Referenda will be conducted nationwide and the results must be respected, said NA’s Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung, adding the government must not take any action which is rejected by the referenda.
The draft law is expected to be submitted to the communist-controlled parliament for approval in October this year.
Vietnam Issues Decree on Imposing Heavy Fines on Press Violations
Vietnam’s communist government has issued a decree that imposes a range of fines on violations by the press with an aim to tighten control over reporting, posting, broadcasting, and announcing information.
The fields which will be under close state monitoring are statistics, nuclear power, price management, fees, education, civil aviation, vocational training, hydrometeorology, surveying and mapping, and healthcare.
The fines vary from VND200,000 (US$9,2) to VND100 million for violations in quoting no sources and spreading news that may harm the national interest or great solidarity.
Observers said the communist government in Vietnam will use the new regulations to silence government critics and brave journalists, along with using controversial articles 79, 88 and 258 of the Penal Code.
In the single party-controlled country, all media outlets are under state control and the government has intensified crackdowns on freedom of expression on social networks.
Over the past years, many famous bloggers who advocate democracy and human rights have been put behind bars. Vietnam ranks 5th among the worst jailers of journalists in 2014 with 16 reporters sent to prison, as the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
KTT & Vu Quoc Ngu: Vietnam Issues Decree on Imposing Heavy Fines on Press Violations
In hurrying trade deal with Vietnam, the EU is bypassing its human rights obligations
FIDH and its member organization Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said today that if finalized without conducting a human-rights impact assessment (HRIA) and without introducing the necessary human rights safeguards, the EU-Vietnam Free trade and investment agreement (FTA) would be concluded in flagrant violation of EU law.
FIDH and VCHR reiterate their call for the EU Commission (EC) to conduct a human rights impact assessment before finalizing the deal and to introduce the needed clauses and safeguards. FIDH and VCHR also call on the other EU institutions to stand firm and require the EU to comply fully with its obligations.
The two organizations made the call after the EC announced, on 4 August 2015 that the EU and Vietnam had reached an agreement “in principle” for an FTA, while some textual technicalities remain to be finalized.
“Brussels’ refusal to include a human rights impact assessment of the FTA is the latest example of EU policies that prioritize business over the respect for human rights, instead of trying to reconcile them,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.
“The EU’s actions are inexcusable and send Vietnam the wrong message. How can Brussels expect Vietnam to comply with its human rights obligations if the EU ignores its own laws?” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai. “Without strong human rights safeguards, the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement is likely to cause an increase in human rights abuses in Vietnam,” he said.
Introducing human rights safeguards would address significant shortcomings in trade agreements, weighing in the human rights of European citizens and those of the Vietnamese people over business interests. Such safeguards could include indicators measuring the impact of the agreement, introduce redress and accountability mechanisms for affected communities, and organize a human and people centered development over business interests, notably in remediating the deficient and unbalanced investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms.
The EC’s move is all the more troubling in that it blatantly contradicts EU law and ignores several calls of EU institutions and UN experts.
On 17 April 2014, the European Parliament adopted a resolution urging the EC to carry out a human rights impact assessment of the envisaged FTA with Vietnam. On 19 May 2014, the Council of the European Union also stressed the “importance of continuing to carry out human rights impact assessments for trade and investment agreements.” On 26 March 2015, in its draft recommendation, the EU Ombudsperson, in response to a complaint jointly submitted by FIDH and VCHR on 7 August 2014, found that the EC’s failure to carry out a specific human rights impact assessment, as part of the negotiations for an FTA with Vietnam, constituted maladministration. The EU Ombudsperson recommended that the EC carry out such an assessment “without further delay.”
On 2 June 2015, UN experts, voicing concern over adverse impact of free trade and investment agreements on human rights, called also for ex-ante and ex-post human rights impact assessments and insisted on the necessity to improve the human rights safeguards in the FTA and investment agreements 
“By ignoring such calls and by precipitating an agreement before the end of the EU ombudsperson procedure, the European Commission suggests it is above the law, with no institution, public debate or mechanism to prevent this from happening. This calls into question the Rule of Law in the EU,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.
In an open letter published today, FIDH and VCHR call upon the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union to revisit the conclusion of the negotiations by the EC, so as to ensure the inclusion of their previous demands to do a human rights impact assessment, and to incorporate the necessary human rights safeguards into the agreement.
Land Petitioner Hospitalized after Being Beaten by Security Guards in Government Building in Hanoi
Nguyen Thi Hien, a land petitioner from Vietnam’s northern province of Bac Giang has been hospitalized after being brutally beaten by security guards in the Hanoi-based government agency responsible for receiving denunciations.
Ms. Hien, who has sought justice for her land seized by local authorities for the past four years, was attacked by bodyguards who are hired to ensure order in the government building.
Witnesses said one security guard named Hoa kicked Hien in her belly, causing bleeding in her mouth. Hien collapsed on a floor in a corridor of the government building in Ngo Thi Nham street in Ha Dong district, other land petitioners said.
After that, police officers called for aurgent ambulance to take her to Ha Dong General Hospital where she was given special treatment. She is still under medical treatment for injuries caused by the brutal attacks.
Police have not investigated the case nor made any report on the incident.
During the past four years, Ms. Hien has been repeatedly harassed by Bac Giang province’s authorities who rejected her denunciations. She was beaten by hired thugs several times before.
Her land was illegally taken by authorities in Dinh Tri commune in Bac Giang city, according to her petitions.
Farmer in Central Vietnam Self-immolates in Land Dispute Case
A female farmer in Vietnam’s central province of Quang Ngai on August 12 burned herself with gasoline to protest local authorities’ decision on a land dispute case, state media reported Wednesday.
State media reported that Pham Thi Le, born in 1963, in Pho Nhon commune, Duc Pho district, was hospitalized in a critical health conditions with serious skin injuries.
According to a local map issued in 2006, Ms. Le’s family has a land parcel of 5,144 square meters. In 1979, the People’s Committee of Pho Nhon commune took 100 square meters of the land lot and gave to Phan Trong Me, who sold the smaller land parcel to Thach Canh Pho.
However, Duc Pho district’s authorities verified that the land parcel taken from Ms. Le’s family was 1,075 square meters, more than ten times bigger.
Ms. Le and the family of Thach Canh Pho have been disputing over a land lot, and the People’s Committee of Duc Pho district settled the dispute in 2013 in favor of Mr. Pho.
Not agreeing to the decision, Ms. Le filed her petitions to the Quang Ngai provincial People’ Committee to demand justice, but her petitions were rejected without giving reasonable explanations.
On Wednesday, when over 20 officials of Pho Nhon commune came to evict her from the disputed land, Le used gasoline to burn herself in the presence of local authorities after failing to stop local authorities and Mr. Pho from taking her land.
She is among a number of Vietnamese people who have self-immolated in land disputes in recent years. Immolations triggered by land grabbing by local authorities were recorded in Danang, Quang Nam and Hanoi.
On April 2 this year, police said Hanoi-based resident Nguyen Hong Luong burned herself in a police station in Dien Bien ward, Hoan Kiem district while she worked with local police officers on a land dispute case.
HCMC Procuracy Publicly Apologizes to Local Resident Wrongly Detained for Four Years in Murder Case
The People’s Procuracy in Vietnam’s southern hub Ho Chi Minh City has publicly apologized to a local resident who had been imprisoned for four years in a case of miscarriage of justice, state media has reported.
In 2001, Truong Ba Nhan, then 39 years old, was arrested and accused by HCM City’s authorities of killing and stealing property of a local resident.
The city’s People’s Procuracy then affirmed that Mr. Nhan was the perpetrator of the muder after police found his fingerprints on the scene and a large volume of gold in his house which was said to be part of the gold stolen from the victim.
However, in October 2006, Mr. Nhan was released due to a lack of solid evidence.
After being freed, Nhan had filed a number of petitions demanding the city’s Procuracy acknowledge his wrongful detention and provide compensation to him.
In late 2014, the city’s People’s Procuracy and Mr. Nhan reached an agreement, for which the state agency will publicly apologize to him and pay a compensation of VND300 million (US$13,700).
Mr. Nhan is among many Vietnamese who have been compensated for wrongful detentions and imprisonments recently.
Earlier this year, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Chan from the northern province of Bac Giang, was compensated with VND7.2 billion for spending ten years in prison in a murder case. He was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of killing a local resident. He was freed after the real killer confessedhis crime to the police.
In 2013, authorities in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang arrested a group of seven young citizens, accusing them of killing a taxi driver. The group was freed in early 2014 after two other females confessed that they were the perpetrators of the murder. The seven-member group was compensated with VND500 million.
In all cases, the victims of miscarriage of justice claimed that they were tortured by police officers during interrogation.
Many Vietnamese legislators have proposed a number of measures to prevent torture and respect human rights of the detainees and those arrested in criminal cases. They have proposed allowing detainees to have access to lawyers immediately after being arrested as well as installing video and audio equipments to record interrogation in police stations.
The right to remain silent should be respected, they said.
Expanding Children’s Rights is Progress in Human Rights
The amendments to the Law on Child Protection, Care, and Education include newprovisions concerning children’s participation in child-related issues. The amendments will be discussed at the current session of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee and is expected to be approved later this year.
The amendmentshave added provisions to ensure the right of children to contribute their opinions and desires on child-related issues. The amendments also specify the responsibilities and rights of administrative agencies, social organizations, and individuals involved in child protection, care, and education.
Progresses in ensuring the rights of children
In the 25 years since Vietnam signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Vietnam has obtained important achievements, in particular, creating legal documents to ensure such rights. Vietnam has built a national action program for children, exerted efforts to implement it, and improved communications to improve community awareness about children’s rights. Dao Trong Thi, Chairman of the National Assembly’s Committee on Culture, Education, Youth, Adolescents and Children, says: “The Party and State have always cared for children. We have the Law on Child Protection, Care, and Education and national programs on ensuring child rights. Children are cared for, educated, and protected.”
Jesper Moller, Deputy Head of UNICEF Vietnam, says that UNICEF appreciates Vietnam’s approval in 2004 of the Law on child protection, care, and education. The Vietnamese government has fulfilled commitments to ensure the right to adequate nutrition, the right to go to school and access to clean water and adequate sanitation.
More rights for children
Thanks to good policies and good implementation, Vietnamese children now enjoy better living conditions, but there is a wide gap between urban and rural areas in basic healthcare and education services.
Vietnam, in collaboration with UNICEF, has launched the “Believe in zero” program in eight provinces. The aim is to give all Vietnamese children in urban, rural, mountain, and ethnic communities equal access to healthcare and education services and to reduce the under-5 mortality rate and malnutrition rate to zero percent.
The Vietnamese government has paid greater attention to children’s demands. Previous Vietnamese law made no mention of children’s right to participate. Now children have the right to participate and voice their opinions on issues relating to them. Mr. Thi said: “The 2013 Constitution mentions children’s rights and other rights. We propose to revise and change the name of the Law on child protection, care, and education to the Law on children. It will include the four rights mentioned in the UN Convention on the rights of the child: the right to survive, the right to grow, the right to be protected, and the right to participate.”
Children have the right to express their opinions and aspirations for the future. Their voices should be taken into consideration in the policy-making process.
Vietnam Proposes Prominent Blogger Ta Phong Tan to Exile in U.S.
Senior officials of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security have proposed imprisoned prominent political dissident Ta Phong Tan to go into exile in the U.S., said Ta Minh Tu, the younger sister of the well-known blogger.
Speaking at an interview to BBC on August 13, Ms. Tu said her sister shared the information during a regular family visit one day earlier. Accordingly, police officers said they will assist Ms. Tan in completing the administrative procedure if she agrees to seek political asylum in the U.S.
However, Ms. Tan, who is serving her ten-year imprisonment for anti-state propaganda, rejected the police’s proposal, saying she is not guilty so she will not beg for mercy, Ms. Tu said.
Tan said she will think about the proposal if the U.S. directly proposes it to her or does so via her relatives, Tu added.
So far, Tan and her family have yet to receive similar proposals, Tu noted.
Ms. Tu said her older sister has a tumor in her leg while the prison refuses to provide proper medical treatment.
Ms. Tan resumed eating on June 14 after more than twenty days of hunger strike to protest the inhumane treatment in prison, especially against political prisoners who are imprisoned closed rooms without windows.
On the occasion of the World Free Press [May 3], the U.S. Department of State named a number of journalists who are illegally imprisoned, including Ms. Tan from Vietnam. Secretary John Kerry said Ms. Tan was sentenced to ten years in jail just because she publicly condemned government corruption.
In March 2013, Secretary Kerry and U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama awarded Ms. Tan as a woman of courage for her dedication to continually demanding a better government for her people, for her willingness to take risks for her beliefs, and for her life experience and skills as a writer that serve as an inspiration to women in Vietnam.
On top of treating political prisoners inhumanely, Vietnam’s communist government has forced many of them to live in exile abroad. Last year, prominent blogger Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) was brought directly from a prison to the Noi Bai International Airport where he was forced to take an international flight to the U.S.
Earlier, imprisoned France-trained legal expert Cu Huy Ha Vu was also forced to live in exile in the U.S.
Vietnam is holding at least 135 political prisoners, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch. Dr. Vu said the Vietnamese government treats prisoners of conscience as commodities to barter with the U.S. and other Western countries for security and trade benefits as well as foreign aid. Vietnam has stocked a reserve of prisoners of conscience for future bargaining, he wrote in an article posted on the Washington Post in 2014.
Vietnam Disciplines 1,600 Communal Policemen Since 2009
Over 1,600 communal policemen in Vietnam have been disciplined since 2009 due to their violations, accounting for 1.2% of the total number of police officers at the grass-root level in the communist nation.
During the past six years, 473 communal police officers have been dismissed and 385 have been received warning from local authorities, according to the Nong Thon Ngay Nay newspaper.
Currently, Vietnam has 111,567 communal police officers and the country needs an additional 7,634, the newspaper said.
As many as 44,517 communal police officers, or 45.5% of the total number, have graduated from high school, while 50,803 of them have passed secondary school and 6,661 just passed primary school.
Vietnamese policeare equipped with guns and electric batons. Recently, the Ministry of Public Security has asked the parliament to give more power to communal police to conduct initial investigation in criminal cases. Many legislators objected to the proposal, saying communal police are not trained for these tasks.
In recent years, many policeat the grass-root level have been attacked and severely injured. Since 2009, 55 communal police officers have died and 429 have been injured while conducting duties.
According to state-controlled media, many Vietnamese have been tortured by communal police and many of them died while otherssuffered serious injuries after being beaten by local police.
HRW Urges Australia to Press Human Rights Issues in Dialogue with Vietnam
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a statement urging Australia to set clear benchmarks for human rights improvements in its dialogue with Vietnam scheduled on August 14.
In its statement posted on its website on August 12, HRW said Vietnam’s human rights record remains dire as the communist government suppresses virtually all forms of political dissent, using a broad array of repressive measures.
HRW emphasized that in Vietnam, freedom of expression, association and assembly are tightly restricted and the local police routinely use torture and beatings to extract confessions and punish detainees.
According to HRW, religious minorities and activists are harassed, intimidated and imprisoned. The criminal justice system lacks independence and operates under the direction of the government and ruling communist party. At the same time, state-run drug rehabilitation centers exploit detainees as forced laborers to make goods for local markets and export.
Vietnam continues to suppress peaceful dissent and punish dissenters for forming organizations that the government views as hostile to its interests, the HRW said, noting the government bans all political parties, unions, and human rights organizations that are independent of the government or the Communist Party of Vietnam.
The HRW documented well over 200 such prisoners in 2013, with the current total number of political prisoners now at least 135. While it is true that fewer dissidents are being convicted, there are still cases and the government now employs new methods of suppression.
Vietnamese dissidents say that violence or harassment by plainclothes police thugs is a new tactic. Thugs, who appear to be government agents in civilian clothes, have been attacking dissidents at an increasing rate, often in public, and with complete impunity. Uniformed police officers do not intervene. The authorities have also been using proxies in social media to attack and defame bloggers and activists.
HRW urged Australia to publicly call on Vietnam to release all political prisoners and detainees, including those imprisoned or detained for exercising their rights to free expression, assembly, movement, or political or religious activity.
Vietnam needs to amend or repeal provisions in the Penal Code and other laws that criminalize peaceful dissent on the basis of imprecisely defined “national security” crimes such as Articles 79, 87, 88, 89, 91 and 258 of the Penal Code, HRW said.
Vietnam must end government-sponsored vigilantism, it added.
Vietnam ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment last year. However, torture and inhumane treatment is rampant in the one-party country, said HRW.
Police throughout Vietnam have been abusing people in their custody, in some cases leading to death. In many of these cases, those killed were being held for minor infractions. A number of survivors said they were beaten to extract confessions, sometimes for crimes they maintained they did not commit. Although the government promised improvements after HRW published its findings about police brutality, it appears that officers who have committed serious, even lethal, transgressions have only rarely faced the serious consequences the law requires.
Australia should express strong concern to Vietnamese officials about police abuse, emphasizing that it violates both Vietnamese and international law, that perpetrators should be punished, and that victims should receive remedy and compensation, HRW said.
Vietnam should establish effective accountability mechanisms. For instance, Hanoi should establish an independent police complaints commission to accept complaints from the public and to provide oversight over the “internal affairs” or “professional responsibility” unit of the police. The commission should be a statutory body with the legal authority to bring prosecutions or impose discipline if the internal affairs or professional responsibility unit fails to do so in cases in which credible allegations have been made, said HRW.
HRW has also highlighted the Vietnamese government’s ongoing persecution of ethnic Montagnard Christians in the Central Highlands, one aspect of a broader pattern of rights violations against religious minorities in the country. Montagnard practitioners are subjected to constant surveillance and other forms of intimidation, arbitrary arrest, and mistreatment in security force custody. Over the past year, hundreds have fled to Cambodia and other parts of Southeast Asia.
HRW proposed that Australia calls on Vietnam to allow all independent religious organizations to freely conduct religious activities and govern themselves. Churches and denominations that do not choose to join one of the officially authorized religious organizations with government-appointed boards should be allowed to operate independently.
Regarding returned Vietnamese asylum seekers, Australia should publicly call on Vietnam to ensure the safety of all returned asylum seekers, many of which were rejected by Australia recently, HRW said.
Vietnam Urged to Prioritize Presumption of Innocence
Vietnam needs to enhance the presumption of innocence in a bid to promote human rights and halt miscarriages of justice, said members of the Standing Committee under the country’s legislative body National Assembly (NA).
Speaking at a meeting of the ongoing 40th session of the Standing Committee on the draft amendmentstothe Criminal Procedure Code, Phan Trung Ly, chairman of the NA’s Legal Committee, said so far the presumption of innocence is not respected as investigators have strived to prove that the suspects are criminals.
The revised law should require investigators to evaluate evidence which may prove that the suspects are wrongly accused, Mr. Ly said.
Le Thu Ba, deputy head of the National Steering Committee on Legal Reform, said that, in many cases, the investigation agencies failed to prove allegation against suspects but they fabricated some accusations or sought to legalize the detention period instead of freeing them. The situation must be ended, she said.
Regarding special investigation, the NA’s Judicial Committee agreed that the new Criminal Procedure Code will allow only three measures which will limit citizenship’s rights: secret voice and video recording, secret wiretapping of phones, and secret interception of e-documents. The implementation of special investigation can be used in criminal investigation or the verification of criminal information sources.
These measures must be limited to protect human rights, said Dr. Dinh Xuan Thao, head of the Institute of Legislative Studies (ILS), while Ms. Ba said these measures must be addressed in the law.
The draft amendments require video or audio recording during all interrogations unless in specific cases due to objective reasons. In these case, the reasons must be clarified in the interrogation minutes.
Vu Quoc Ngu: Vietnam Urged to Prioritize Presumption of Innocence
Hanoi Decorates Streets with China-sourced Flowers despite Gov’t Call for Home-made Products
Authorities in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi have imported China-sourced flowers for decorating the city’s main streets to celebrate the 70th National Day even though the Vietnamese government has called for home-made products to be purchased.
Local residents found that in the heart of Hanoi–Hoan Kiem lake and surrounding streets–workers were planting flowers from carton boxes which were labeled with Chinese characters. According to the labels, the flowers were made in China’s southern province of Hunan.
The move met strong protest from nationalists who said Hanoi should buy the same flowers produced by local farms to protect local production.
In response, Ho Guom Management Unit and the flower provider affirmed that the flowers were produced in Vietnam’s central city of Da Lat. However, they failed to explain why the flowers were packed in carton boxes with Chinese letters.
During the past several years, Vietnam’s government has launched a national campaign to call on local residents to purchase home-made products.
Meanwhile, Vietnam is planning to hold a grand parade in Hanoi with the participation of 30,000 people to mark the 70th National Day (September 2). The government will use cannon and fireworks for the event.
The plan met strong protests from local dissidents who said the country should be frugal amid economic difficulties.
Vietnam’s public debt is estimated at $110 billion in late 2014, accounts for 59.6% of the country’s gross domestic products (GDP), according to the World Bank.
Thanh Hoa Police Arrest Anti-corruption Activist, Charging Him with Democratic Freedom Abuse
Authorities in Vietnam’s central province of Thanh Hoa on August 15 detained a local resident, charging him with “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 258 of the country’s Penal Code.
Mr. Dinh Tat Thang, 72, from Xuan Bai commune in Tho Xuan district will be under detention for a three-month investigation, and if he is tried and proven guilty, he will face an imprisonment of between six and 48 months, according to the country’s law.
Local police said that Mr. Thang, who was sentenced to nine months on the same allegation in 2008, has repeatedly filed denunciations against provincial and district officials after being released, accusing them of committing wrongdoings in implementing socio-economic tasks.
Local authorities said that, based on the initial investigation by Thanh Hoa police, his denunciations and petitions are fabricated, defaming many local officials, including senior police officers in Tho Xuan district.
Thanh Hoa province’s authorities will launch further investigation to bring him to court, state media reported Saturday.
In the one-party Vietnam, the ruling communists have not tolerated any criticism and the government has used controversial articles such as Article 79, 88, and 258 of the Penal Code to silence local dissidents.
According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnam held over 200 prisoners of conscience in 2013 and the current total number of such prisoners is at least 135.
Vietnam has always denied to holding any prisoner of conscience but only law violators.
Hanam-based Corruption Fighter Imprisoned while His Ill Mother Kidnapped by Local Police
Police in Vietnam’s northern province of Ha Nam have kidnapped a mother of a local corruption fighter prior to a trial against him, according to reports on social networks.
Mrs. Ha Thi Duc, 80, was taken away by police and plainclothes agents on July 29 when she was accompanied by her relatives on their way to attend a her son’s trial at Thanh Liem district People’s Court. Her son, Mr. Nguyen Van Thien,was arrested for filing petitions denouncing corruption of cadres in Liem Can commune.
According to the information provided by his family, Mr. Thien bravely accused local cadres for committing wrongdoings when enforcing government policies for families which contributed to the country’s revolution, and for illegal land seizure affecting 29 war-invalid and war-martyr families in the commune.
On the same day, the court sentenced Mr. Thien to four years in jail for causing public disorders under Article 245 of the Penal Code for his anti-corruption efforts.
The police have still kept Mrs. Duc in an unknown locationand refused to communicate with the family over her kidnapping. Thugs have surrounded her house while the communal authorities have sent representatives of state-controlled civil society groups to the family and threatened the family’s members that they will not allow the family to meet with the 80-year-old woman if the family takes “improper moves.”
They have threatened that if Mrs. Duc, whose health is under critical conditions, dies, the local authorities will organize her funeral and will not allow her relatives to attend.
Thugs on Friday said Mrs. Duc already died.However, according to a reliable source, she is under medical treatment in the Ninh Binh Central Hospital.
Vietnam has been under communist rule for decades. The government has pledged to protect and give high rewards for people who help the government deal with corruption which is systemic in the one-party regime.
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