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UN committee slams Vietnam for suppression of activists and journalists

In 2015, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted the Advisory Committee Report "Role of local government in the promotion and protection of human rights". (Jaurocks/Wikimedia Commons)
April 07, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

A U.N. committee has issued a report highly critical of the Vietnamese government, demanding Hanoi stop jailing activists and journalists for speaking out against state policies, while also condemning Vietnam for executing high numbers of people guilty of minor crimes after unfair trials.

These criticisms came as the UU issued its concluding observations on Thursday of the most recent of three periodic reports on Vietnam, in which the committee reviewed civil and political freedoms.

“The Committee regrets the severe restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression in the State party, including through laws and practices that appear not to comply with the principles of legal certainty, necessity and proportionality,” said the committee in the report.

It cited offenses to freedom of expression in art, state control over the media, a 2018 law on cyber security and finally “arbitrary arrest, detention, unfair trials and criminal convictions, including of human right defenders, journalists, bloggers, and lawyers, for expressing criticism of State authorities or policies”

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The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), an NGO based in Paris praised the findings of the report.

“The U.N. Committee gives a stark but utterly realistic assessment of the policies and practices used by Vietnam to suppress civil and political rights and reinforce the Communist Party’s absolute control” said VCHR President Võ Văn Ái.

“The international community should take heed of the UN experts’ conclusions and impress upon Vietnam that ‘business as usual’ cannot continue unless the Vietnamese government commits to substantive legislative and political reforms”.

The report explored several areas of concern, including the need for independent bodies to observe, promote and protect human rights, more clear terminology in Hanoi’s counter-terrorism efforts, and a framework for non-discrimination.

The report also advocated the right of peaceful assembly, freedom of association and participation in public affairs.

“Concretely, the UN experts recommend that Vietnam ensures political pluralism, holds transparent and genuine elections, promotes media freedom and respects the right to form independent trade unions and NGOs in order to fully implement the ICCPR”, said Võ Văn Ái.

“The only way this can happen is for Vietnam to abolish article 4 of the Constitution on the political monopoly of the Communist Party, as its citizens insistently demanded during the Constitutional reform in 2013,” he said.

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The report also said that Vietnam used the death penalty too often, even for drug-related crimes, which under international law are not deemed as the most serious.

The report pointed out that the government essentially had the power to put anyone to death for any reason.

Reuters quoted committee member Marcia Kran as saying “The number and the identities of persons sentenced to death are kept secret by the authorities which means it is possible for dissidents to be targeted and sentenced to death without due process.”