United Nations Human Rights Council
17 June 2013

Joint Submission by
 International Federation for Human Rights
17 passage de la Main d’Or
75011 ParisFrance www.fidh.org geneva@fidh.org
Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
BP60063, 94472 Boissy Saint Léger cedex France
www.queme.net vietnam.committee@gmail.com


1.         At its Universal Periodic Review in May 2009, Vietnam accepted recommendations  to improve the protection of human rights. In these four following years, however, not only was progress  in  implementing  these  recommendations  extremely  limited,  but  on  the  contrary, Vietnam launched one of the most intensive crackdowns on freedom of expression, religion and assembly in recent years.

2.         Between  May 2009 and June 2013, FIDH and VCHR  compiled  cases of 160 human rights  defenders  and  peaceful  activists  condemned  to a total of 1,052  years  in prison,  with sentences ranging from two years to life imprisonment, followed by years of house arrest. They were  all  charged  under  vaguely-worded  “national  security”  provisions  in  the  Criminal  Code which make no distinction between violent acts such as terrorism and the peaceful exercise of freedom  of  expression  and  are  incompatible  with  the  rights  enshrined  in  the  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam acceded in 1982. This list is not exhaustive, and many others are awaiting trial.

3.         In the on-going crackdown,  peaceful activists and human rights defenders have been subjected  to  unprecedented   Police  brutality,  beatings  and  sexual  assaults,  harassments, arbitrary arrest and “administrative detention” in labour camps and psychiatric institutions.

4.         During the same period, Vietnam also introduced legal measures to restrict the exercise of human rights. New decrees and regulations were adopted to curb freedom of expression on the Internet, freedom of religion, and to limit the legal operations of domestic and international NGOs in Vietnam.

Constitutional and Legislative Framework

5.         The  protection  of human  rights  is guaranteed  by  the  1992  Vietnamese  Constitution. However, the exercise of these rights is severely curtailed by provisions in the Constitution and extensive domestic legislation that restricts human rights to compliance with “the policies and interests of the State”. Article 4 of the Constitution which enshrines the political monopoly of the Vietnamese  Communist  Party (VCP) as the “force leading the State and society” is a major impediment  to  the  exercise  of  human  rights  because  it  excludes  pluralism  of  opinion  and expression, and subjugates human rights protection to the protection of the one-Party state.

6.         A  project  to  amend  the  1992  Constitution  was  opened  to  public  debate  in  2013.  If adopted  as  presented,  it  would  considerably  weaken  human  rights  protection  in  Vietnam. Whereas the 1992 Constitution guarantees that human rights in the political, civic, economic, cultural and social fields are respected” (Article 50), the new Draft Constitution (Article 15) refers only generally to “human and civil rights”, and adds that these rights “may be restricted when necessary for reasons of defence, national security, public order and safety, morality and health of the community”. [1]   Moreover, although the government  actively solicited public proposals to amend the Constitution, citizens who called for the abolition of Article 4 were sanctioned and harassed.[2]

 Cooperation with UN Human Rights Mechanisms and Special Procedures

 Recommendations   accepted  by  Vietnam:  “Increase  cooperation  with  all  mechanisms  of  the United  Nations  human  rights  system,  including  special  procedures  and  treaty  bodies”  (Brazil); “Reengage with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion” (United Kingdom).

7.         Vietnam  is a state party to five core UN human  rights treaties.  However,  as the UN Independent Expert on Extreme Poverty, Magdalena Carmona said on her visit to Vietnam in 2010:  “being  party  to  international  human  rights  instruments  is  not  sufficient:  international standards must be incorporated into domestic legislation”.[3]

8.         Vietnam  has  not  improved  compliance  with  treaty  body  reporting  mechanisms.  Its periodic   report  to  the  ICCPR   is  overdue   since  2004.  It  also  failed   to  implement   the recommendations  of  treaty  bodies.  During  the  period  under  review,  the  CERD  called  on Vietnam  to  abrogate  “national  security”  provisions  in  the  Criminal  Code  which  criminalize freedom  of  opinion,  expression  and  religion,  repeal  discriminative  laws  and  practices,  and abolish   administrative   detention.[4]     Prior   to   2009,   Vietnam   disregarded   repeated   similar recommendations  by the CEDAW  (2006), the UN Human  Rights Committee  (2002), the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (1995) and the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance (1998).

9.         Cooperation  with UN human rights mechanisms  remained unsatisfactory.  Since 2009, four Special Procedures  made in situ visits to Vietnam. However, their visits were controlled and, in some cases, restricted. Ms. Gay McDougall, UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues was prevented from meeting members of “non-recognized” religious groups, and regretted that she did not have “free and unfettered access to all parties whom she wished to consult” during her visit in July 2010.[5]  Vietnam did extend an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. However, the government has fixed no date for the visit, despite repeated reminders  by the Special  Rapporteur.  Vietnam  did not accept  the request  for a visit by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

10.       Since 2009, Vietnam has responded to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s (WGAD) individual complaint review process. However, it has systematically ignored WAGD’s recommendations to release prisoners detained in violation of international law.[6]

The Administration of Justice and Rule of Law

 Recommendations accepted by Vietnam:  Take the necessary steps to comply with ICCPR and make sure the right to a fair trial based in law is guaranteed” (Argentina); “Take concrete steps to effectively ensure that all persons deprived of their liberty are brought before a judge without delay” (Austria).

11.       The Right to a Fair Trial: The Courts are not independent in Vietnam, and trials are routinely unfair. Under the provisions of the 1992 Constitution, justice is administered through the People’s Courts, the People’s Office of Supervision and Control, and by Military Tribunals. Their role is to “safeguard  socialist  legality  and the socialist  regime” (Article  126). Trials are presided  over  by  Judges  and  People’s  assessors.  Although  nominally  independent  “during trials”  (article  130),  judges  and  assessors  at  all  levels  are  elected  under  a  system  closely supervised  by the Vietnamese  Communist  Party, the National  Assembly  and the Fatherland Front.   Defence   counsel   cannot   sincerely   defend   prisoners   without   risking   harassments, expulsion from the bar and even imprisonment themselves.[7]

12.       Since  its  last  UPR,  Vietnam  has  conducted  a  series  of  major  political  trials  which contravened  standards  of  fairness  and  impartiality.  Detainees  were  held  virtually incommunicado  during pre-trial detention, often beyond legal limits. With little access to legal counsel, they were unable to prepare their defence. Trials were closed to the public and family members, and media and diplomatic observers were restricted or banned. Security forces surrounded  the courts during trials in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Haiphong,  blocking road access, jamming cell-phone reception and beating and arresting supporters waiting outside the courts. Defence lawyers were not given access to the full file of accusations against their clients, and were often not notified of the trial date until the last minute. During the trial of the Club of Free Journalists  (bloggers Dieu Cay Nguyen Van Hai, Ta Phong Tan and Phan Van Hai) in September  2012, the Court cut off the microphone  when Dieu Cay spoke to defend himself, rejected his lawyer’s demand to call witnesses for the defence and failed to produce evidence cited in the charges laid against him.[8]  They were sentenced  respectively  to 12, 10 and four years in prison, followed by several years of “probationary detention” (quản chế).[9]  The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, declared that the verdict “undermine[d] the commitments  Vietnam  has  made  internationally,  including  during  the  UPR,  to  protect  and promote the right to freedom of expression”,  and noted that “the harsh prison terms handed down to the bloggers exemplify the severe restrictions on freedom of expression in Vietnam”.

13.       Mobile trials: As part of a government  crack-down  in the Central Highlands in 2010-2011,  provincial  Courts  conducted  “mobile  trials”  of  ethnic  Christians  charged  with  national security offences, such as affiliations with FULRO or Dega Protestantism. Whereas most trials are  closed  to  the  public,  mobile  trials  are  showcased  to  crowds  of hundreds,  reportedly  to frighten communities and warn them against following Dega Protestantism.[10]

14.       Unlawful Pre-trial Detention: Since 2009, in violation of the 2003 Criminal Procedures Code  and  international  obligations,  Vietnam  has  held  defendants  in  pre-trial  detention  for excessive periods and under extremely harsh conditions. Blogger Dieu Cay was detained incommunicado  for 23 months before the authorities announced his whereabouts in February 2012. Many defendants were held without any notification to their families, in violation of Article 88.4 of the Criminal  Procedures  Code. In October 2013, University  student Nguyen  Phuong Uyen, 21, was detained incommunicado  for three weeks, during which she was coerced into making a “public confession” later shown on state-run TV.[11]

15.       Administrative  Detention: Since the last UPR, at least three peaceful pro-democracy activists  were detained  under Ordinance  44 on “Regulating  Administrative  Violations”,  which empowers  local  officials  to  detain  citizens  under  house  arrest,  in  psychiatric  institutions  or “education camps” arbitrarily, without safeguards, any due process of law or trial.[12]  Ordinance 44 is particularly  used to target political and religious  dissidents.  Decree 76/2003/ND-CP  on “education camps” prescribes detention conditions far below minimum international standards. Inmates engaged in hard labour are allowed a mere 800 grammes of meat or fish per month, two sets of underwear per year, one blanket every two years and floor space (not beds) for sleeping. According to inmates’ reports, even these quotas are not met in practice.

 Legal reforms

Recommendations accepted by Vietnam: continue to work to ensure key pieces of national legislation, including the 1999 Penal Code and 2003 Criminal Procedures Code, are consistent with its international human rights treaty commitments” (Australia); “pursue the judicial and administrative reforms with a time-bound action plan to build an effective, open and transparent legal system based on the rule of law” (Turkey).

16.       Vietnam  has  made  no  progress  in  reforming  the  Criminal  Code  and  the  Criminal Procedures Code to bring them into line with the ICCPR. On the contrary, since 2009, it has intensified  the  use  of vaguely-worded  “national  security”  provisions  in the  Criminal  Code  to arrest peaceful activists and human rights defenders. These offences carry prison sentences of up to life imprisonment or the death penalty. Hundreds of bloggers, online journalists and cyber- dissidents have been imprisoned for “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (Article 88), “abusing democratic freedoms to encroach on the interests of the state” (article  258),  “undermining  national  solidarity,  sowing  divisions  between  religious  and  non- religious  people”,  (article  87).  In  two  prominent  trials  in  January  and  February  2013,  26 bloggers, human rights defenders and peaceful environmentalists  received sentences of up to life imprisonment  on charges of “activities aimed at overthrowing  the people’s administration” (Article 79) for acts of peaceful expression.

The Right to Life, Liberty and Security of the Person

Recommendations  accepted by Vietnam: Fulfill the Government aim of limiting the use of capital  punishment  promptly  by reducing  the  scope  of crimes  subject  to the  death  penalty” (Norway); “reduce the number of offences punishable by the death penalty” (Germany).

17.       The death penalty  continues  to be applied in Vietnam  for a range of economic  and “national security” crimes. No reforms have been made since Vietnam’s last UPR, and statistics on  the  number  of executions  remained  classified  as  “state  secrets”.  In  July  2011,  Vietnam adopted new legislation to carry out executions by lethal injections rather than the firing squad. According to the state-controlled media, the law was aimed to make executions “more humane” and  relieve  the  psychological  pressure  on  executors,  many  of  whom  were  suffering  from trauma.  Since  the  law  was  adopted,  however,  Vietnam  could  not  obtain  the  lethal  drugs because of a ban imposed by the EU. The authorities continued to pronounce death sentences (an average of 100 per year), and now over 500 prisoners are awaiting execution on death row under inhumane  conditions.  To reduce  this backlog,  in May 2013, Vietnam  adopted  Decree 47/2013/ND-CP  which legalizes the use of vaguely defined “domestic poisons” for execution, the effects of which are unknown. The government announced it would begin the executions of 170 prisoners as soon as the law comes into effect on 27 June 2013.

18.         Detention Conditions and Ill-treatment of prisoners: At its UPR, Vietnam rejected proposals to improve detention conditions in its prisons and camps, and has not implemented recommendations  to this effect made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary  Detention  after their visit to Vietnam  in 1994. However,  as a state party to the ICCP,  Vietnam  is bound  to ensure that detained persons are treated with humanity (Article 10, ICCPR).

19.       Prisoners  released  between  2009-2013   report  that  prisons  are  overcrowded   and insalubrious. Food rations are grossly insufficient, and prisoners have to rely on support from their families to buy food and other basic necessities in prison canteens where police-set prices are  exorbitant.  Forced  labour  is  obligatory,  and  those  who  are  too  weak  or  ill to  complete production quotas are punished by shackling or solitary confinement in cramped cells with no light or ventilation. Medical care is available only to those who can pay, and many prisoners are gravely ill from beatings, exhaustion and lack of medical care. In Section K2 of Z30A Xuan Loc Camp in Dong Nai, one prisoner is now suffering from AIDS after being forced to shave with the sole razor blade used by all the prisoners. Others are paralyzed, deaf or blind.[13]

20.       Political prisoners are subjected to a particularly harsh regime. Their clothes and utensils are  marked  with  the  letters  “C.T.”  (chính  trị  –  “political”  in  Vietnamese).  Unlike  common criminals, they not allowed pens and paper, denied the right to receive regular visits and food parcels,  and  kept  on  low  rations.[14]   Prisoners  are  frequently  sanctioned  with  detention  in cramped solitary confinement cells which have no light or ventilation. They are shackled night and day.[15]  Prison regulations allow inmates to file complaints, but they are never addressed.[16] Such inhumane treatment violates Vietnam’s Regulations on Detention Conditions regulated by Government Decree 113/2008 and Article 10 of the ICCPR.

 The Right to Freedom of Expression

Recommendations  accepted  by Vietnam:  Fully  guarantee  the  right  to receive,  seek  and impart  information  and ideas in compliance  with article 19 of ICCPR”  (Italy); “Take steps to ensure that full respect for the freedom of expression, including on the Internet, is implemented in current preparations for media law reform” (Sweden).

21.       Since Vietnam’s last UPR, it has made no steps to respect this pledge. On the contrary, Vietnam has stepped up legal restrictions on freedom of expression, both online and off-line, and cracked down heavily on journalists, netizens and bloggers. Constitutional  guarantees of press freedom (Article 69) are nullified by a whole range of domestic laws and regulations which prohibit all spoken or written expression deemed to “threaten the interests of the State”. The press, radio and television are run by Party-controlled, military or government agencies. There is no privately-run, independent media in Vietnam.

22.       On 25 February  2011, Media Decree  2/2011/ND-CP  came into force, which imposes heavy fines on journalists who violate the decree’s overly broad and vague provisions, such as failing to “provide honest domestic and international news in accordance with the interests of the country and the people.” Since this Decree was issued, investigative reporting on corruption in the official press has diminished markedly. A reporter on an official newspaper who exposed corruption amongst traffic police in Ho Chi Minh City in 2012 was sentenced to four years in prison, even though his reports were proved to be true.[17]

23.       A draft Internet Decree is in preparation which is fatally flawed and inconsistent with international human rights law and standards. If adopted in its current form, the Decree would oblige Internet companies in Vietnam to cooperate with the government in enforcing a range of vaguely-defined  prohibited  acts  of expression.  Article  5 prohibits  acts  such  as “abusing  the provisions and use of the internet and information on the web” to “oppose the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”; “undermining the grand unity of the people” and “undermining the fine customs and traditions of the nation”. Article 25 requires the filtering of any information on the Internet based on the interpretation that such information is amongst the “prohibited acts” outlined in Article 5.

24.       Bloggers and cyber-dissidents who use the Internet to express peaceful critical views, write poetry or sing protest songs[18]  are a target of fierce government repression. Since 2009, the authorities have stepped up extra-legal practices such as house arrest, enforced disappearances,  beatings, intimidation[19]  and pervasive surveillance, and even sexual assaults by Police.[20]  Targeted individuals are left entirely outside the protection of law, without the ability to  challenge  and  seek  redress  for  their  detention  or ill-treatment.  Netizens  have  also  been denied  the  right  to  freedom  of  movement  without  justification.  During  this  period,  several bloggers were prevented from travelling overseas, including one who was invited to receive an award in the USA on behalf of his family.[21]  Another recent trend is to arrest pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders on trumped up criminal charges such as “tax evasion”.[22]

25.       Online  Censorship  is  pervasive.  Vietnam  filters  and  controls  Internet  content  and harshly  punishes   users.  Since  2009,  hundreds   of  blogs  have  been  closed  down.  The government justifies online censorship as a measure to protect young people from accessing “unhealthy” sites. However, monitoring by international NGOs in 2012 showed that state-owned Internet Service Providers blocked critical political blogs and sites of domestic and international NGOs concerned with democracy, religious freedom and human rights, whereas sites with pornographic content were not blocked.

The Right to Religious Freedom

Recommendation said to be “in the process of implementation”: “Step up efforts to ensure the full respect of freedom of religion and worship, including by reviewing laws and provisions at all levels related to freedom of religion, in order to align them with article 18 of ICCPR” (Italy) (Poland).

26.       Repression on religious grounds remains widespread. Since 2009, Vietnam has adopted legislation to reinforce controls and restrict the scope of religious activities. In January 2013, Decree 92 on “Directives and measures for implementing the Ordinance on beliefs and religion” came  into  effect  which  prohibits  a wide  range  of activities  perceived  to “abuse  the  right  to freedom  of  belief  or  religion”,  and  adds  a  number  of  new  obligations  and  vaguely-worded provisions that give the authorities  greater leeway to sanction and restrict religious activities. Rather than protecting  religious freedom, the Decree is aimed at reinforcing  State control or management of religions in Vietnam.[23]

27.       Religious policy is controlled by the Government Board of Religious Affairs (GBRA), the Vietnam Fatherland Front, the Communist Party’s Department of Propaganda and Mobilization and the Ministry of the Interior. In 2012, the government appointed Lt.-General Pham Dung, a former  high-ranking  official  in  the  Ministry  of  Public  Security,  as  head  of  the  GBRA.  He commands a network of “religious police” (A41) under who have full powers to control religious activities at all levels of society and in all aspects of the people’s lives.

28.       The situation of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), adhered to by the majority  of  the  Vietnamese  population,  is  of  particular  concern.  Banned  effectively  in  1981 following  the  creation  of  the  State-sponsored   Vietnam  Buddhist  Church,  its  leaders  and members are subjected to detention, intimidation and constant harassment. Despite repeated appeals from the international community, Vietnam has not re-established its legal status. Since Vietnam’s  last  UPR,  the  authorities  have  intensified  repression  against  UBCV  members, prohibiting celebration of key Buddhist festivals such as the Vesak (Buddha’s Birthday) and the Vu Lan (Wandering Soul’s Day), subjecting UBCV leaders to beatings, house arrest and surveillance,  harassing  Buddhists  who  frequent  “reactionary”  UBCV  Pagodas  and  smashing Buddha statues.[24]  UBCV monk Thich Thanh Quang was beaten by hired thugs under the eyes of the Police in August 2012. Buddhist Youth leader Le Cong Cau was interrogated for three days  in  March  2013  and  threatened  with  prosecution  for  posting  articles  on  the  Internet supporting the UBCV.[25]

29.       UBCV leader Thich Quang Do, 85, remains under house arrest without charge at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City. He has spent almost 30 years in detention for his peaceful advocacy of religious freedom and human rights. He is held under constant Police surveillance, and denied freedom of movement. A UK Parliamentary delegation visiting Vietnam in 2013 was prohibited from meeting Thich Quang Do by the Vietnamese authorities.[26]

30.       Since   2009,   the   authorities   have   intensified   repression   against   ethnic   Christian Montagnards  in the Central Highlands and Hmongs in the Northern Highlands. Members of ethnic  groups  that  peacefully  resist  assimilation  policies,  practice  the  faith  outside  State- sponsored churches, refuse pressure to recant their faith or peacefully advocate political and economic  rights  for  their  community  are  routinely  subjected  to  threats,  harassments,  fines, arbitrary expulsion from their homes and public denunciation sessions organized by the military, police and local authorities. In May 2011, armed military and special force units using machine guns fired on a peaceful gathering of Hmong Christians in DienBienProvince, killing scores of people and wounding hundreds.[27]

31.       Khmer Krom Buddhists in southern Vietnam suffer from religious persecution and land confiscation.   Buddhist   monks   have   been   subjected   to   defrocking,   arrest   and   forced disappearances.

 The Right to Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly

 Recommendations   accepted   by   Vietnam:   “Continue   to   maintain   and   strengthen   the economic,  political  and  social  model  of  Viet  Nam  to  guarantee  the  full  participation  of  the population in public and security affairs” (Lao People’s Democratic Republic).

32.       Although freedom of association is guaranteed by the 1992 Vietnamese Constitution, the exercise of this right remains significantly restricted in Vietnam. There are no independent non-governmental organisations (NGOs). All associative activity is strictly controlled by the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) and the Vietnam Fatherland Front, an umbrella of “mass organisations”, whose role is to reinforce the VCP’s control over the population and implement its policies in political and religious affairs.

33.       Since  its  last  UPR,  Vietnam  has  increased  legal  restrictions  on  the  operations  of domestic  and international  associations.  In July 2009,  the Prime  Minister  issued  Decree  97 limiting private research organisations to a list of 317 topics and banning them from publishing results bearing on government policies. This decision forced Vietnam’s only independent think tank, the Vietnam Institute of Development Studies, to close down.

34.       Decree  12  on  “Registration  and  Management  of Operation  of International  NGOs  in Vietnam”, promulgated in 2012, facilitates registration but increases government control of the implementation of INGO programmes. It includes a host of “prohibited activities” for INGOs such as “organizing  or carrying  out political,  religious  or other  activities  that are inconsistent  with State interests or the security, defense and great unity of the Vietnamese  people (Article 4). These clauses give the government great discretion in stopping “unwanted” INGO programmes from operating in Vietnam.

35.       Although freedom of peaceful assembly is guaranteed in the Vietnamese Constitution, Vietnam  systematically  suppresses  peaceful  demonstrations  and  punishes  protesters  under criminal laws such as Decree 38/2005, which bans demonstrations outside public buildings, and the “Directives for Implementing  Decree 38” (2006) which prohibits public gatherings of more than   five   people   without   authorization.   In   August   2011,   Police   forcefully   disbanded demonstrations  in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City against perceived Chinese encroachments  on Vietnamese   territories,   arresting  scores  of  people.  In  2012,  peaceful  demonstrations   of peasants and farmers known as the “Victims of Injustice” protesting state confiscation of lands and forced evictions were suppressed with extreme violence in Tien Lang, Van Giang and Vu Ban. In May 2013, young people who tried to hold gatherings in public parks in Hanoi, Nhatrang and Ho Chi Minh City for “human rights picnics” to discuss the UN Universal Declaration  on Human   Rights   were   impeded   by  Police.   Bloggers,   dissidents   and  UBCV   monks   were intercepted by security agents and local militia to prevent them attending these gatherings.[28]

Social, Economic and Cultural Rights

Recommendations  accepted by Vietnam: Take active measures to close the gap between rich and poor and between the mountainous and urban areas” (China); “Continue and enhance efforts to reduce the poverty level, especially for vulnerable groups, so as to boost employment, improve access to health and increase available social housing” (Côte d’Ivoire)

36.       Economic liberalization under the policy of renovation (đổi mới) has seriously restricted the access of poor people and vulnerable populations to basic social services such as health and education. With the introduction of “user fees”, health and education have become paying commodities. This has seriously penalized people in rural areas, and lead to alarming disparities between  ethnic  minorities  and  the Kinh  (Vietnamese)  people.  Vietnam’s  lack  of progress  in implementing reforms led to a rising poverty gap during the period under review.

37.       One cause of disparities in health and education access is the hộ khẩu, or system of household registration. This is an obligatory permit which gives access to housing ownership, health  care, education  and other key public  social  services.  The system  is divided  into five categories  of residents.  People without permanent  residence  status (“temporary  migrants”  of KT3  and  KT4  status)  have  to  pay  higher  prices  for  electricity  and  pipe  water  consumption compared  to  local  residents.  The  hộ  khẩu  is  also  required  to  obtain  birth  certificates  for newborns (Decree 81/1998/ND-CP). Parents who are refused hộ khẩu cannot obtain birth certificates, and thus cannot register their children for schooling. They also cannot obtain government-provided  financial support for disadvantaged  pupils to cover textbook or learning aids, nor access free medical care and other welfare bonuses, since these all require that pupils have  permanent  household  registration  status.  Ethnic  minorities  who  are  denied  hộ  khẩu because of their religious affiliations or non-sedentary lifestyle suffer grave denial of economic and social rights in all aspects of their daily lives.

38.       The Right  to Work  and to Just and Favourable  Conditions  of Work is seriously undermined by government policies of economic liberalization in Vietnam and the absence of legal and social safeguards. Vietnam has attracted foreign investment by keeping wages low (the minimum wage is fixed by the government), and worker rights are routinely sacrificed for greater profits. Workers operating  in toxic or dangerous  environments  are often not supplied with protective clothing, and work-related accidents and deaths are on the rise.

39.       Since 2009, the number of strikes to protest poor working conditions and bad pay have increased significantly  (up to 1,000 strikes in 2011, double the number in 2010). The right to strike is severely restricted. Strikes in state-owned firms, public services and sectors considered important to national economy and defence are banned. Decree 41, adopted in 2013, prohibits strikes in six major sectors, including national security. The Prime Minister can terminate any strikes perceived to be “detrimental to the national economy or public safety”. Under Decree11/2008, if a strike is ruled illegal, workers must pay compensation to their employers for “losses and damages”. In 2011, 95% of the strikes were deemed to be illegal.

40.       The Labour Code does not authorize  freedom  of association.  All labour unions are under the umbrella of the “Vietnam General Confederation of Labour” (VGCL) controlled by the VCP. Free trade unions are prohibited. Under the 2013 Law on Trade Unions (12/2012/QH13), foreigners are prohibited from establishing or joining trade unions. This is a step backwards for worker rights, as the former law allowed the participation  of foreign and Vietnamese  workers alike. In 2010, several young labour activists were condemned to harsh prison terms simply for seeking to protect workers’ rights and demanding the right to form independent trade unions.

The Rights of Women

Recommendations  accepted  by Vietnam:  Maintain  its commitment  to striking  a balance between  the  opening  up  of  its  economy  and  minimizing  the  adverse  impacts  on  the  most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in the society” (Lebanon).

41.       The  negative  effects  of  economic  liberalization  have  particularly  impacted  women. Despite legal commitments taken by the government to promote gender equality, grave abuses of women’s rights such as domestic violence, trafficking of women and girls, prostitution,  the growing problem of HIV/AIDS and violations of reproductive rights remain widespread.

42.       Trafficking  of  young  girls  and  women  for  sexual  exploitation,  often  with  the connivance  of Party  and Police  officials,  has literally  exploded.  Young  women  are recruited through fraudulent marriages, false promises of employment, licensed and unlicensed migrant labour recruiting agencies and sent mainly to Cambodia, China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea, where they are victims of sexual and labour exploitation.

43.       Victims of trafficking who escape and return to Vietnam have no legal protection. Many rural women find that their land has been confiscated during their absence. If they have children born overseas, the children are not entitled to the obligatory residence permit, or “hộ khẩu”, and become illegal citizens, deprived of the right to education and health care.

44.       Land  rights:  Lack  of  implementation,   lack  of  awareness,  insufficient  information, widespread official corruption, power abuse and the lack of an impartial judiciary have resulted in mass abuses of women’s right to land. Although the revised Land Law entitles women to register Land Use Rights Certificates along with their husbands, this is not widely implemented, resulting in prolonged denial of women’s access to land. Widows find themselves expropriated without  the slightest  compensation  when  their  husband  dies.  Banks  refuse  to give  loans  to widows because the LURCs only mention the deceased husband’s name.


45.       The FIDH and the VCHR call upon Vietnam to take all necessary steps to:

46.       Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, journalists, religious and political dissidents detained for the peaceful expression of their political and other opinions or religious beliefs;

47.          End censorship, mass surveillance, and all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all human rights defenders, including those using the Internet and ICTs for their human  rights  work,  and  comply  with  the  provisions  of the  1998  UN  Declaration  on Human Rights Defenders;

48.         Implement  the  recommendations  of the  UN  Human  Rights  Committee  by  bringing domestic legislation into line with international human rights law and immediately repealing all legislation restricting the exercise of internationally recognised human rights; in particular:

a)  Immediately   repeal  Ordinance   44  on  “Regulating   Administrative   Violations”,   and release  all  those  currently  detained  under  house  arrest,  in  “education”  camps  or psychiatric institutions under the provisions of this law;

b) Urgently revise vaguely-defined “national security” provisions in the Criminal Code, especially Articles 79, 80, 86, 87, 88, 91 and 258; Article 88 should never be invoked to suppress  the  rights  to freedom  of expression  online  or offline,  as guaranteed  in Article 19 of the ICCPR;

49.       Ensure that any amendments to the Vietnamese Constitution conform with the ICCPR, the ICESCR and other key international human rights standards;

50.       Guarantee the right to due process of law, including the right to a fair trial; defendants should be able to meet their lawyers to adequately prepare their defence; defence lawyers must have the right to present relevant evidence in court; defendants should be allowed to speak in their own defence;

51.       Conform with the UN Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners; abolish forced labour and end practices of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners; ratify and implement the UN Convention against torture;

52.       Re-establish  the legitimate  status of the Unified Buddhist  Church of Vietnam  (UBCV) and all other non-recognized  religious organisations  and allow them full freedom  of religious activity;  cease  harassment  and  detention  of  UBCV  members  and  other  religious  followers; revise Decree 92 and repeal all legislation that restricts the right to freedom of religion or belief;

53.       Guarantee freedom of media, authorize the publication of independent newspapers and cease  legal  sanctions  and  harassment  against  journalists  and  citizens  expressing  peaceful views through the printed media, Internet or radio;

54.       Adopt a Law on Associations that guarantees the right to form associations outside the framework of the Communist Party, thus fostering the emergence of independent civil society;

55.       Amend  the  new  Labour  Code  to  bring  it  into  line  with  the  ICCPR  and  all  ILO requirements; allow the establishment of independent trade unions; release all those detained for peaceful activities to promote worker rights;

56.       Increase the minimum wage to ensure a decent living wage for all workers, as required by Article 7 of the ICESCR, ratified by Vietnam;

57.       Implement   the   recommendations   of   the   UN   Committee   on   the   Elimination   of Discrimination  against  Women;  take  stronger  measures  to combat  trafficking  for labour  and sexual exploitation; remove any administrative obstacles in the Land Law that may prevent the issuance of joint land use certificates to husbands and wives.

58.       Put an immediate end to forced evictions carried out in contradiction with international human  rights  law,  in  particular  the  Basic  principles  and  guidelines  on  development-based evictions and displacement presented by the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component  of  the  right  to  an  adequate  standard  of  living;  ensure  that  domestic  legislation expressly prohibits forced evictions in principle and effectively in practice; only very limited exceptions should be admitted, in conformity with the ICESCR.

59.       Implement   the  recommendations   of  the  Committee   on  the  Elimination   of  Racial Discrimination to abolish the discriminative mechanism of the hộ khẩu (residence permit); Immediately fix a date for the in situ visit of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief; issue standing invitations to UN special procedures, notably the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders;

60.       Establish  a moratorium  on  the  death  penalty  as  a first  step  towards  abolishment  of capital punishment under all circumstances;  meanwhile, review national security provisions in the Criminal Code to ensure that no-one may incur the death sentence simply for expressing views opposing those of the Communist Party; lift the classification of “state secrets” on capital punishment;

61.       Ratify the UN Convention  on the Protection  of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families;

62.       Allow unhindered access to the country by international human rights NGOs.

[1]Vietnam Law and Legal Forum (VLLF), No. 221-222, January & February 2013.

[2] On 26 February 2013, Nguyen Dac Kien, a journalist on the state-run newspaper “Family and Society” was fired and threatened  with prosecution  less than 24 hours  after writing  a post on his personal  blog criticizing  the Secretary- general  of  the  Communist   Party  Nguyen  Phu  Trong.  He  is  accused  of  “violating  the  operating  rules”  of  the newspaper.  The 29-year-old  journalist  disagreed  with a speech  made during a public debate on revising  the 1992 Constitution in which the Communist Party leader said that calling for pluralism, a multiparty system and separation of power represented a “deterioration” of Vietnamese society.

[3] Mission to Vietnam, Report by the UN Independent  Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty, Ms. Magdalena Sepulveda Carmona and Press Release on conclusion of the visit. www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10282&LangID=E

[4] Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. January    2012 http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/CERD.C.VNM.CO.10-14.pdf

[5] Report of the Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Gay McDougall, Mission to Vietnam, 5-15 July 2010, A/HRC/16/45/Add.2.

[6] Opinion  1/2009  on Dieu Cay, Nguyen  Viet Chien,  Nguyen  Van Hai, Truong  Minh Duc, Pham  Van Troi, Nguyen Xuan Nghia, Ms. Pham Thanh Nghien, Vu Hung, Ngo Quynh and Nguyen Van Tuc; Opinion 6/2010 on Father Nguyen   Van   Ly;   Opinion   24/2011,   August   2011   (A/HRC/WGAD/2011/24)   on   Cu   Huy   Ha   Vu   ;   Opinion 46/11/(A/HRC/WGAD/2011/46) on Tran Thi Thuy, Pham Ngoc Hoa, Pham Van Thong, Duong Kim Khai, Cao Van Tinh, Nguyen  Thanh  Tam and Nguyen  Chi Thanh;  Opinion  27/2012  (A/HRC/WGAD/2012/27) on Tran Huynh  Duy Thuc, Nguyen Tien Trung and Le Thanh Long; Opinion 42/2012  (A/HRC/WGAD/2012/42) on Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, Do Thi Minh Hanh and Doan Huy Chuong;  Opinion  18/2005  18/2005  on Thich Quang Do and Thich Huyen Quang (Opinion 18/2005, 26.5.2005).

[7] In August 2011, lawyer Huynh Van Dong was struck off the Dak Lak Bar Association on accusations of “advocating on behalf of accused individuals” because he protested being denied access to vital legal documents whilst defending land-rights activists at a trial in Ben Tre in May 2011. VCHR Alternative Report on CERD, 2012, P. 15 – http://www.queme.net/eng/news_detail.php?numb=1780

[8] Dieu Cay, Ta Phong  Tan and Phan Thanh  Hai were sentenced  respectively  to 12, 10 and four years in prison, followed by several years of “probationary detention”.

[9] Observatory on Human Rights Defenders, 28.9.2012 – http://www.fidh.org/Viet-Nam-Three-pro-democracy-12230

[10] VCHR Alternative  report to the CERD on “Violations  of the Rights of Ethnic and Religious Minorities  in Vietnam”, 2012 (cf. note 5).

[11] Police arrested Nguyen Phuong Uyen (21) on 14 October 2012, then denied all knowledge of her arrest. Only after strong public outcry in Vietnam,  including  a Petition signed by 144 prominent  Party veterans and intellectuals,  they revealed  that  she  was  detained  in a prison  in Long  An. She  was  accused  of “anti-State  propaganda”  for writing poems critical of China and sentenced to six years in prison on 16 May 2013 along with her colleague Dinh Nguyen Kha, who received  an 8 year sentence.  Prison wardens  prohibited  Uyen’s mother from visiting her, but told her to bring  food  parcels  for  her  daughter  ”because  the  prison  does  not  provide  enough  to  eat”.  See  FIDH  &  VCHR: Bloggers and Netizens Behind Bars – Restrictions on Internet Freedom in Vietnam, 2013. http://www.queme.net/eng/doc/Bloggers_behind_Bars_FIDH-VCHR_2013.pdf

[12] Blogger Le Anh Hung and pro-democracy  activists Bui Thi Minh Hang and Nguyen Trung Linh, cf note 7; VCHR Press Release 2013.01.26   http://www.queme.net/eng/news_detail.php?numb=1987  and Joint Letter by Observatory for Human Rights Defenders and VCHR,  http://www.queme.net/eng/news_detail.php?numb=1991

[13]Arbitrary Detention of pro-democracy  and Religious Activists in Vietnam”, testimony by Vo Van Ai before the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights, USA 15.5.2012. http://www.queme.net/eng/docs_detail.php?numb=1837

[14] FIDH & VCHR Report, 2010: “Vietnam: From “Vision” to facts – Human Rights in Vietnam under its Chairmanship of ASEAN http://www.queme.net/eng/doc/From_Vision_to_Facts_-_Human_Rights_in_Vietnam.pdf

[15] Pro-democracy  activist Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who was condemned  to 16 years in prison in January  2010, has been held in solitary confinement several times, most recently in June 2013 for a period of 10 days. Fellow prisoners report that he could not sleep because  of the smell of excrement  and urine. Prisoners  in solitary  confinement  are given one litre of water a day for drinking and washing, as well as a bucket for use as a toilet.

[16] Prominent  dissident  Cu Huy Ha Vu began a hunger strike in June 2013 in Prison Camp No. 5 in Thanh Hoa to protest the Camp’s  refusal to address  complaints  he filed in November  2012 after being the victim of harassment, bullying  and death threats by a Camp warden.  Political prisoner  Nguyen  Huu Cau, who is serving life in prison for writing poems criticizing the Communist  Party in Z30A Prison Camp in Xuan Loc has written 500 letters demanding the right to an appeal trial, without receiving any reply (cf. footnote 9).

[17] Hoang Khuong (Nguyen Van Khuong), a journalist on the state-run newspaper  Tuoi Tre, was arrested in January 2012 and sentenced to 4 years in prison on 7 September 2012 for exposing police corruption – http://www.queme.net/eng/docs_detail.php?numb=1837

[18] Singers and song-writers Viet Khang (Vo Minh Tri) and Tran Vu Anh Binh were sentenced respectively to four and six years in prison for posting songs on Youtube questioning government repression of peaceful demonstrations.  On 16 May 2013, university  student  Nguyen  Uyen Phuong  (21) and computer  technician  Dinh Nguyen  Kha (25) were sentenced respectively to six and eight years in prison followed by three years house arrest simply for writing poems and distributing leaflets critical of the government;

[19] On 3 April 2013, plain-clothed  security agents threw excrement  and rotten fish into the home of Buddhist blogger Huynh Ngoc Tuan during the night in order to frighten him into stopping his online criticisms of government  policies. Cf. VCHR Press Release http://www.queme.net/eng/news_detail.php?numb=2042

[20] On  28.12.2012,  25-year-old  blogger  Nguyen  Hoang  Vi  was  beaten  savagely  by  Police,  stripped  naked  and subjected to a humiliating vagina cavity search which was videotaped by male Police officers. She had been taken to the Police Station for a pretexted “identity check”. Ibid footnote 7.

[21] Huynh Trong Hieu was prevented from travelling to the USA to receive the Hellman Hammett prize for persecuted writers awarded to his father, Huynh Ngoc Tuan and sister Huỳnh Thuc Vy (cf footnote 7).

[22] Lawyer and prominent  activist Le Quoc Quan was arrested on 27 December  for so-called  “tax evasion”.  He had previously  suffered  beatings  and physical  assaults  by secret police because  he attended  demonstrations.  Blogger Dieu  Cay  was  also  detained  for  “tax  evasion”  before  being  condemned   to  a  second  sentence  for  “anti-state propaganda” in 2012 (cf. footnote 7).

[23] Government Decree 92 tightens controls of religions in Vietnam, IBIB, 29.11.2012 http://www.queme.net/eng/news_detail.php?numb=1955

[24] In December 2012, the Government  Board of Religious Affairs (GBRA) ordered the destruction of Buddha statues in a Buddhist  site on Ba Ra Mountain  in BinhPhuocProvince  to make place for a tourist centre. The Commission mandated to oversee the “removal” of the statues was made up of officials from the GBRA, the People’s Committee and the State-sponsored  Vietnam  Buddhist  Sangha.  The destruction  operations  were led by the head of the Binh Phuoc office of the GBRA Nguyen Huu Tu. Buddhist monk Thich Ngo Chanh denounced the smashing of the statues and posted footage and interviews in a Youtube in May 2013.

[25] “The   State’s   Policy   of  Repression   against   the  Unified   Buddhist   Church   of  Vietnam”,   Testimony   to  US Congressional Hearing on Human Rights in Vietnam, Vo Van Ai, 14 April 2013. http://www.queme.net/eng/news_detail.php?numb=2046.

[26]British  Parliamentary  Delegation  is barred  from  visiting  Buddhist  leader  Thich  Quang  Do”,  IBIB  5 June  2013, http://www.queme.net/eng/news_detail.php?numb=2085

[27] Ibid footnote 5.

[28] Security Police surround Giac Hoa Pagoda, 7 May 2013, IBIB http://www.queme.net/eng/news_detail.php?numb=2067

Source: FIDH