Vietnam – Vietnam Freedom in the World 2014


Vietnam
Vietnam Freedom in the World 2014

Overview:

In 2013, Vietnam continued its intense crackdown on free expression online, in print, and in the public. The state convicted more than twice as many dissidents for activities like “conducting propaganda against the state” in 2013 than it did in 2012. In September, the state introduced a new law, Decree 72, that restricted all websites and social media from publishing anything that “provides information that is against Vietnam,” an incredibly broad provision that could essentially permit the government to arrest any Internet user in the country.

The repression did not stop the public from venting its anger—through social media and other forums—at perceptions of nepotism and vast corruption within the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), and at the slowing economy. Party leaders, including President Truong Tan Sang, acknowledged this anger and criticized some of the government’s actions, but did not enact meaningful reforms to stop corruption or promote political pluralism.

Despite the overall worsening climate for civil liberties and political freedoms, the CPV decided in November to lift its ban on gay marriage. Though it did not officially legalize same-sex marriage, Vietnam is the first country in Asia to allow same-sex unions.

The country also enhanced its strategic ties with influential democracies in 2013, including Japan and the United States, which hosted Vietnam’s president for a White House visit and launched a “comprehensive partnership” with Vietnam. Vietnam also joined the negotiations for a major regional free trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties:

Political Rights: 3 / 40 (+1) [Key]

A. Electoral Process: 0 / 12

The CPV, Vietnam’s the sole legal political party, controls politics and the government, and its Central Committee is the top decision-making body. The National Assembly, whose 500 members are elected to five-year terms, generally follows CPV dictates. The president, elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term, appoints the prime minister, who is confirmed by the legislature.

Tightly controlled elections for the one-party National Assembly were held in May 2011, with the CPV taking 454 seats, officially vetted nonparty members securing 42 seats, and self-nominated candidates garnering the remaining 4. In July 2011, the legislature approved Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, the prime minister since 2006, for another term, and elected Trương Tấn Sang as the state president.

B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 1 / 16

The CPV is the only legally allowed party in Vietnam. The Vietnam Fatherland Front, essentially an arm of the CPV, vets all candidates for the National Assembly. Membership in the Party is now primarily seen as a means to business and societal connections.

Although splits within different factions of the party have become more noticeable to outsiders and some educated Vietnamese, they are not openly aired, and websites or other media in Vietnam that discuss these splits are shut down and prosecuted. Many urban Vietnamese participate in political debate by using remote servers and social media to criticize nepotism and mismanagement by party leaders.

C. Functioning of Government: 2 / 12 (+1)

Vietnam’s government has become increasingly saddled by corruption, splits, and an inability to manage the country’s problems. Although the CPV has since the late 1980s overseen a long period of economic expansion, growth has slowed in the past four years, and the government has failed to address serious problems, including a widening wealth gap and vast debts within state-owned enterprises. Splits within the CPV have become slightly more open, and the government has failed to seriously address corruption within the party or nepotism in the Party and state companies.

Although senior CPV and government officials have acknowledged growing public discontent, they have not responded with comprehensive reforms. Government decisions are still made with little transparency. A plan announced in spring 2013 to make state companies more transparent was not put into practice.

Civil Liberties: 17 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 4 / 16

The government tightly controls the media, silencing critics through the courts and other means of harassment. A 1999 law requires journalists to pay damages to groups or individuals found to have been harmed by press articles, even if the reports are accurate. A 2006 decree imposes fines on journalists for denying revolutionary achievements, spreading “harmful” information, or exhibiting “reactionary ideology.” Foreign media representatives legally cannot travel outside Hanoi without government approval, though they often do in practice. The CPV or other state entities control all broadcast media. Although satellite television is officially restricted to senior officials, international hotels, and foreign businesses, many homes and businesses have satellite dishes. All print media outlets are owned by or are under the effective control of the CPV, government organs, or the army.

The government restricts internet use through legal and technical means. A 2003 law bans the receipt and distribution of antigovernment e-mail messages, websites considered “reactionary” are blocked, and owners of domestic websites must submit their content for official approval. Internet cafés must register the personal information of and record the sites visited by users. Internet-service providers face fines and closure for violating censorship rules.

In 2013, the government increased its repression of print and online journalists, jailing more than twice as many writers and bloggers in 2013 as it did the previous year. In June, the government arrested Pham Viet Dao, perhaps the best-known blogger in Vietnam, and charged him with “abusing democratic freedoms.” In September, the state introduced Decree 72, which restricted all websites and social media from publishing anything that “provides information that is against Vietnam,” an incredibly broad provision. The law also bans anyone using social media from writing about anything but “personal information,” and requires foreign Internet companies, like Google and Yahoo!, to maintain servers inside Vietnam, making it easier for Hanoi to censor any information that appears on their sites.

Religious freedom also remains restricted, having declined somewhat after a series of improvements in the mid-2000s. All religious groups and most individual clergy members must join a party-controlled supervisory body and obtain permission for most activities. The Roman Catholic Church can now select its own bishops and priests, but they must be approved by the government. Catholic leaders continued to be arrested around the country in 2013, and in September, Vietnamese authorities forcibly broke up a protest by Catholics in a town south of Hanoi, injuring at least 40 people.

Academic freedom is limited. University professors must refrain from criticizing government policies and adhere to party views when teaching or writing on political topics. Although citizens enjoy more freedom in private discussions than in the past, the authorities continue to punish open criticism of the state.

E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 1 / 12

Freedoms of association and assembly are tightly restricted. Organizations must apply for official permission to obtain legal status and are closely regulated and monitored by the government. A small but active community of nongovernmental groups promotes environmental conservation, land rights, women’s development, and public health. Land rights activists are frequently arrested; in April 2013, a court sentenced a group of fish farmers who fought back against land eviction to two to five years in jail. Occasional protests have erupted in major cities against China in the past two years, but these demonstrations are encouraged by the Vietnamese government and closely monitored. Human rights organizations and other private groups with rights-oriented agendas are banned. In early 2013, Vietnam allowed a representative of Amnesty International to visit the country for the first time in decades for a “dialogue,” but that discussion has thus far produced no tangible results.

The Vietnam General Conference of Labor (VGCL), closely tied to the CPV, is the only legal labor federation. All trade unions are required to join the VGCL. However, in recent years the government has permitted hundreds of independent “labor associations” without formal union status to represent workers at individual firms and in some service industries. Farmer and worker protests against local government abuses, including land confiscations and unfair or harsh working conditions, have become more common. The central leadership often responds by pressuring local governments and businesses to comply with tax laws, environmental regulations, and wage agreements. Enforcement of labor laws covering child labor, workplace safety, and other issues remains poor.

F. Rule of Law: 4 / 16

Vietnam’s judiciary is subservient to the CPV, which controls courts at all levels. Defendants have a constitutional right to counsel, but lawyers are scarce, and many are reluctant to take on human rights and other sensitive cases for fear of harassment and retribution—including arrest—by the state. Defense attorneys cannot call or question witnesses and are rarely permitted to request leniency for their clients. Police can hold individuals in administrative detention for up to two years on suspicion of threatening national security. The police are known to abuse suspects and prisoners, and prison conditions are poor. Many political prisoners remain behind bars, and political detainees are often held incommunicado. After an 18-month hiatus to re-examine the death penalty, Vietnam resumed using capital punishment in August 2013.

G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 8 / 16

Ethnic minorities, who often adhere to minority religions, face discrimination in mainstream society, and some local officials restrict their access to schooling and jobs. Minorities generally have little input on development projects that affect their livelihoods and communities.

Despite the overall worsening of the climate for political rights and civil liberties in Vietnam, over the past two years the government has allowed increasingly open displays of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights. LGBT supporters held pride days in 2012 and 2013 in Vietnam, and the country’s state media aired a gay-themed sitcom. In November 2013, the government passed a law removing its ban on gay marriages, though it stopped short of recognizing same-sex unions.

Women hold 122 seats in the National Assembly. Women generally have equal access to education and are treated similarly in the legal system as men. Although economic opportunities have grown for women, they continue to face discrimination in wages and promotion. Many women are victims of domestic violence, and thousands each year are trafficked internally and externally and forced into prostitution.

Maritime Labour Convention 2006: What it is, what it does, how it works


Maritime Labour Convention 2006: What it is, what it does, how it works

With the Maritime Labour Convention due to come into force on 20 August, the ILO has compiled a guide to this historic ‘seafarers’ bill of rights.’

Article | 12 August 2013
GENEVA – Global support for the International Labour Organization’s Maritime Labour Convention continues to increase, as the date it enters into force approaches. Currently, the ILO has registered ratifications of the Convention by more than 40 ILO member States responsible for regulating conditions for seafarers on more than 75 per cent of the world’s gross tonnage of ships.

When the Convention, known as “MLC, 2006” comes into force on 20 August – effectively becoming binding in international law – it will establish minimum working and living standards for all seafarers on those ships. What’s more, it will also be an essential step toward ensuring fair competition and a level-playing field for quality owners of ships flying the flags of ratifying countries.

Decent work and fair competition

The MLC, 2006 was adopted by government, employer and worker representatives at a special ILO International Labour Conference, in February 2006, to provide international standards for the world’s first genuinely global industry. Widely known as the “seafarers’ bill of rights,” it is unique in its effect on both seafarers and quality ship owners.

The comprehensive Convention sets out in one place seafarers’ rights to decent conditions of work on almost every aspect of their working and living conditions including, among others, minimum age, employment agreements, hours of work or rest, payment of wages, paid annual leave, repatriation at the end of contract, onboard medical care, the use of licensed private recruitment and placement services, accommodation, food and catering, health and safety protection and accident prevention and seafarers’ complaint handling.

It was designed to be applicable globally, easy to understand, readily updatable and uniformly enforced and will become the “fourth pillar” of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping, complementing the key Conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) dealing with safety and security of ships and protection of the marine environment.

“This Convention shows how tripartite dialogue and international cooperation can combine constructively for the most globalized of industries to concretely address the challenges to securing decent working and living conditions for seafarers, while simultaneously helping to ensure fair competition for ship owners,” says Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the International Labour Standards Department of the ILO, which has steered the development, adoption and entry into force since the very beginning of the process.

High ratification rate, stringent requirements

The Convention was adopted with demanding entry into force requirements, to ensure that it would result in real change for seafarers and ship owners and avoid being seen as a “paper tiger.” The concern was to ensure that it had the strong backing of the maritime sector – especially flag States – before it came into force.

Under ILO practice, Conventions usually become binding under international law 12 months after countries register ratifications. To enter into force, the MLC, 2006 needed to register at least 30 ratifications by countries representing at least 33 per cent of the world’s gross shipping tonnage. (The tonnage requirement was met in 2009.)

“Thus the speed and scope of ratifications is remarkable, given that the requirements for its entry into force were intentionally made the most stringent of any ILO Convention,” Dr. Doumbia-Henry says.

As the pace of ratification increases, the maritime industry is also actively implementing the Convention, often well ahead of government action. It is foreseeable that the Convention will eventually receive nearly universal ratification from relevant ILO Members.

The Convention mandates that commercially operated ships of 500 gross tonnage or over and governed by its provisions will, if they operate on international voyages, be required to carry, among other things, two specific documents: a Maritime Labour Certificate (MLC) and a Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance (DMLC) providing prima facie evidence that the ships are in compliance with the requirements of the Convention.

These two documents will be subject to inspection when ships enter the ports of other countries that have ratified the Convention. In addition, ships flying the flag of countries that have not ratified the Convention will also be subject to inspection with respect to working and living conditions for seafarers when they enter ports of countries where it is in force. This “no more favourable treatment” approach, is an important aspect to help ensure fair competition for ship-owners that comply with the Convention.

In addition, countries that ratify the Convention after the first 30 that initially brought it into force, will come under its provisions within one year of their ratification date.

An international standard for a global industry

The MLC, 2006 applies to a wide range of ships operating on international and national or domestic voyages. Exceptions include those navigating exclusively in inland waters or waters within, closely adjacent to sheltered waters or areas where port regulations apply; those engaged in fishing or similar pursuits; and ships of traditional build such as dhows and junks and warships or naval auxiliaries.

It also contains important new compliance and enforcement components based on flag State inspection and for port State control. The ILO has developed a number of resources such as Guidelines for flag State inspections and for port State control as well as workshops to help train inspectors and to assist national legal counsel and officials involved with ratification and national legal implementation. The Maritime Labour Academy at the ILO’s Internation al Training Centre (ITC) in Turin, Italy, offers a comprehensive range of training activities under the MLC, 2006.

Tags: seafarer, labour standards

Unit responsible: Communication and Public Information

Questions for: Christof Heyns January 4th, 2011 by Paul Tullis


Questions for: Christof Heyns

January 4th, 2011 by Paul Tullis

Patrolling the boundaries of society, this UN special rapporteur opens up about his notoriously difficult post.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual’s

The…

View Post

Questions for: Christof Heyns January 4th, 2011 by Paul Tullis


Questions for: Christof Heyns

 

January 4th, 2011 by Paul Tullis

 

Patrolling the boundaries of society, this UN special rapporteur opens up about his notoriously difficult post.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual’s

The Responsibility Project

Questions for: Christof Heyns

Christof Heyns, dean of the law faculty at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, recently began a two-year mandate as the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions. The United Nations has 37 special rapporteurs, who serve as independent experts and report to the organization’s Human Rights Council on particular issues or geographical areas of concern; Heyns will cover incidents of murder either by a government or in which a government fails to adequately investigate and prosecute such crimes. The post is notoriously difficult: unpaid, understaffed, with no subpoena power or ability to require the cooperation of those being investigated, and no ability to enforce. Heyns, 51, is a former anti-apartheid activist and the author, editor or co-author of several books on human rights law.

What does responsibility mean to you?

Part of it is accountability. But part also is that, in addition to rights, we have duties – duties to other people and to certain causes as well. Responsibility involves ideals.

How did you get into human rights?

My upbringing was quite traditional in the Afrikaans sense, but gradually I became aware that something seriously was wrong in the country. During post-graduate study in the U.S., I got involved in some meetings with South African liberation movements and joined with others who were in exile or were living abroad, and I became convinced of the need for change in South Africa.

How does your role as special rapporteur compare with your prior work?

I’ve taught criminal law and done a fair amount of criminal work in the courts, including death penalty cases when South Africa still had the death penalty. And I think it will help to be familiar with the larger legal frameworks.

Part of your job is to interview witnesses to the premeditated, often very brutal, killings of large numbers of people. How do you prepare yourself for those conversations?

I’m still not sure how to prepare oneself for it, but I’m very aware that it’s important that you do. If you interview survivors and also break down in the process and are overwhelmed by it, you’re not in a good position to assist. On the other hand, if you’re not touched by it, you’re not in a good position to act on their behalf. It’s a very difficult position: you must connect with what you encounter, yet you must be strong enough to do something about it afterward.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am writing letters to governments – urgent appeals to investigate reported murders, or letters of allegation – and working on thematic reports to the Human Rights Council and General Assembly. Currently we are in touch with a potential team of experts to investigate a video, which, it’s claimed, shows the execution of Tamil rebels by government forces in Sri Lanka.

One of the more challenging human-rights issues regards the use of drone aircraft and targeted killing. What are the ramifications of this technology and tactic in the context of humanitarian law?

The fact that you can identify an individual and kill him with advanced military technology has the potential to escalate and have no bounds. It moves the notion of war further from the idea that you’re acting in your immediate self-defense, and that there’s no other option, which is what justifies the taking of life in humanitarian law and human rights law.

Is your job hazardous?

The UN provides protection to the experts on a mission where they deem it necessary. I have no reason to doubt their expertise. There could be a tension between being protected and having access to people whom you want to interview. For example, if you want to talk to witnesses who do not want to be seen talking to you, it is not helpful to drive into the town where they live under heavy escort. But I am sure there are ways of getting around this.

Special rapporteur is one of the most difficult and thankless jobs there is; there’s no salary, no subpoena power or ability to require the cooperation of those you investigate, and no ability to enforce. Why take it?

I think it creates a powerful voice, or it can, to help determine the ground rules of our coexistence. The SR almost patrols the perimeters of acceptable society, not in the way of the Lone Ranger with a gun, but to report and draw attention. One can, in a way, set the debate – set the norms. Even if you’re not in a position yourself to do anything about it, simply the fact that you draw those lines to define what’s acceptable and what’s not is valuable.

I gave it some thought and it wasn’t altruism or some kind of religious conviction that led me to accept. It’s more: What kind of world do you want to live in? One in which people are more secure in their lives, or not? The jump you make is to believe you can actually make a very small difference in that direction.

Paul Tullis writes, from Los Angeles, on policy, politics and culture for a variety of national magazines. He blogs at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-tullis.

Vietnam human rights bill approved by House By Staff / Baptist Press, Monday, August 05, 2013


Vietnam human rights bill approved by House

By Staff / Baptist Press

Vote on It:

Average Vote:

[+] Text [-]

WASHINGTON (BP) — The U.S. House of Representatives has approved nearly unanimously a bill designed to advance religious freedom and other human rights in Vietnam.In a 405-3 roll call Aug. 1, the House approved the Vietnam Human Rights Act, H.R. 1897, which will prohibit any increase in non-humanitarian U.S. aid to the Southeast Asian country if its government does not make significant progress in promoting human rights. The Senate has yet to act on the proposal.

Among its goals, the bill seeks to end religious abuses and return confiscated property to churches and religious communities.

The legislation also expresses the sense of Congress that the State Department should re-designate Vietnam as a “country of particular concern,” a classification reserved for the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.

The bill’s purpose is “to send a clear, strong, and compelling message to the increasingly repressive communist regime in power in Vietnam that says that the United States is serious about combating human rights abuse” in that country, said Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., in a written statement. Smith is the bill’s House sponsor.

Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists and adherents of other faiths face government abuse, Smith said. Government officials have jailed journalists and have been complicit in human trafficking, Smith said.

The House-approved bill says the Vietnamese government “continues to limit the freedom of religion, restrict the operations of independent religious organizations, and persecute believers whose religious activities the Government regards as a potential threat to its monopoly on power.”

According to the legislation, “unregistered ethnic minority Protestant congregations, particularly Montagnards in the Central and Northwest Highlands, suffer severe abuses because of actions by the Government of Vietnam, which have included forced renunciations of faith, arrest and harassment, the withholding of social programs provided for the general population, confiscation and destruction of property, subjection to severe beatings, and reported deaths.”

The only representatives to vote against the bill were Republicans Paul Broun of Georgia and Walter Jones of North Carolina, as well as Democrat Gregory Meeks of New York.

The House vote followed by a week a July 25 state visit to Washington by Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang. In a joint news conference, President Obama said they “had a very candid conversation about both the progress Vietnam has made and the challenges that remain.”

In a statement released later, the White House noted “narrow differences” between the two countries on the issue of human rights, but a statement in Nhan Dan, the official newspaper of Vietnam’s Communist Party, claimed the differences were “many and significant.”

Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Copyright (c) 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

Vietnam to ban sharing of news stories on social media, Edited by Chris Irvine, AFP


Vietnam to ban sharing of news stories on social media

Vietnam is to ban bloggers and social media users from sharing news stories, in a further crackdown on online freedom.

Photo: AP

By AFP

11:41AM BST 01 Aug 2013

Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have become hugely popular over the last few years in the heavily-censored Communist country.

But a decree issued by the government said blogs should only be used “to provide and exchange personal information.”

The document, signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and made public late on Wednesday, stipulates that internet users should not use social networks to share or exchange information on current events.

Social media users will not be allowed “to quote general information … information from newspapers, press agencies or other state-owned websites”, Hoang Vinh Bao, head of the Department of Radio, TV and Electronic Information, said, according to a report on the state-run VNExpress news site.

It is not clear how the law will be implemented or the penalties faced, but internet commentators said it could in theory make it illegal to share links to stories or even discuss articles published online in Vietnam’s state-run press.

The decree, which comes into force in September, also bans foreign internet service providers from “providing information that is against Vietnam, undermining national security, social order and national unity … or information distorting, slandering and defaming the prestige of organisations, honour and dignity of individuals”.

Le Nam Thang, the deputy information and communications minister, said the new rules aim to help internet users “find correct and clean information on the internet.”

The country bans private media and all newspapers and television channels are state-run.

Many citizens prefer to use social media and blogs to get their information rather than the staid official press.

But the authoritarian government has repeatedly attempted to stifle growing online debate in what rights groups say is an escalating crackdown on freedom of expression.

Online commentators reacted with fury to the decree.

“This decree clearly aims to muzzle the people,” Nguyen Quang Vinh wrote on his well-read blog.

The authorities want “to turn us into robots”, wrote popular Vietnamese Facebook user Nguyen Van Phuong.

Edited by Chris Irvine

Joint Statement of Human Rights Organizations Regarding the Upcoming Meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang July 25, 2013


July 25, 2013
The upcoming visit to the United States by President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam presents an opportunity for U.S. President Barack Obama to reiterate his Administration’s position that Vietnam’s “backsliding” on human rights is a stumbling block to expanded trade and security collaboration between the two countries. Likewise, this is an opportunity for the Vietnamese leadership to demonstrate their commitment to internationally recognized human rights.We, the undersigned organizations, would like to see expanded U.S.-Vietnam partnership in the context of greater respect for human rights. We strongly believe that President Obama should insist on the full release of all Vietnamese political prisoners and other prisoners of conscience. At the same time we call on the Vietnamese government to agree to the following steps as milestones:

(1) Immediate and unconditional release of Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu, independent journalist Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay), and blogger Ta Phong Tan.

Dr. Vu, a constitutional scholar who fought for environmental justice and the rights of indigenous peoples, is serving a seven-year sentence for “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam”. He suffers congenital heart problems, acute migraine, unstable blood pressure, high cholesterol, and persistent skin rashes. Dr. Vu needs medical treatment and round-the-clock care. Last month he held a 25-day hunger strike to protest the abject prison conditions.

Last year the U.S. State Department highlighted Dieu Cay’s courage, making his case the first in a series of profiles of bloggers and journalists honored on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. Speaking on that occasion, President Obama specifically called on the international community to not forget Dieu Cay. He is serving a 12-year sentence for “disseminating anti-state information and materials.” He is on hunger strike to protest the abject prison conditions.

On International Women’s Day of this year the U.S. First Lady and Secretary of State John Kerry jointly honored blogger Ta Phong Tan as a woman of courage. She started a blog called Truth and Justice to expose corruption in the Vietnamese legal system. She was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to ten years in prison.

The release of these three prominent prisoners of conscience would be viewed as a positive development and a significant effort toward improving human rights practices in Vietnam. We are confident that this will set a positive tone for President Sang’s upcoming meeting with President Obama.

(2) Release of all known Vietnamese political prisoners and other prisoners of conscience prior to the upcoming ASEAN Summit in Brunei, where U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly will hold a side meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

International human rights organizations have documented at least 150 political prisoners and other prisoners of conscience. The Vietnamese government should release all such prisoners unconditionally before the upcoming ASEAN Summit.

Reports of several hundred other such prisoners, particularly among ethnic and religious minorities in highland areas, have been difficult to confirm because the government severely restricts access to these areas.

As the confirmation process may take time, the government of Vietnam should agree to a timeline for verification, which is to start immediately. Verified political prisoners and other prisoners of conscience should then be gradually released from prison in groups and no later than the end of this year.

(3) Prison visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross, UN agencies, and international human rights organizations to inspect the conditions in Vietnamese prisons and detention centers.

We urge the Vietnamese government to end the arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention of people who peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly, and religious belief.

The government should ensure that all detained suspects and prisoners are treated in accordance with international human rights standards. Detainees should have prompt access to a lawyer of their choice, be promptly brought before a court, and not be subject to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

We also urge the government to fully apply international standards on the treatment of prisoners and conditions of detention, in particular by enacting into legislation and adhering to the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

Regular and unhindered prison visits by credible parties such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and international human rights organizations will help verify such adherence.

Signed by:
Boat People SOS (BPSOS)
Burma Partnership
Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam
Con Dau Parishioners Association
Council for Human Rights in Vietnam
Environmental Defense Law Center
Hmong National Development
Human Rights Watch
ICT Watch Philippines
INDIGENOUS
International Office of Champa
The Lantos Foundation
Vietnamese Committee on Justice and Peace of the Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston

Cồn Dầu – US House Resolution 1572 Condemning CON DAU Persecutions in Vietnam


Cồn Dầu – US House Resolution 1572 Condemning CON DAU Persecutions in Vietnam

U.S. House Resolution 1572 Condemning Con Dau Persecutions in Vietnam
August 6, 2010
111th CONGRESS
2d Session
H. RES. 1572
Condemning and deploring the violence, threats, fines, and harassment faced by the villagers of Con Dau, Da Nang, for seeking to protect their land, the historic cemetery, and other parish properties, and to receive an equitable resolution of their property dispute, and for other purposes.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
July 29, 2010
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey (for himself, Mr. CAO, and Mr. WOLF) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs

RESOLUTION
Condemning and deploring the violence, threats, fines, and harassment faced by the villagers of Con Dau, Da Nang, for seeking to protect their land, the historic cemetery, and other parish properties, and to receive an equitable resolution of their property dispute, and for other purposes.
Whereas in May 2007, the People’s Committee of Da Nang, Vietnam, announced a plan to lease the land in the Hoa Xuan district area, including the entire village of Con Dau, to international developers to build a resort and tourist area;
Whereas the People’s Committee of Da Nang announced that all residents in the affected area would be required to move and that they would be compensated for the land;
Whereas, on August 15, 2010, the Con Dau parish will be celebrating 85 years since its establishment and 135 years since the first religious refugees settled on the land;
Whereas the village of Con Dau is coterminous with a Catholic parish of the same name and consists of approximately 400 Catholic households;
Whereas the village of Con Dau vigorously resisted the People’s Committee of Da Nang’s proposal as village land including a Catholic cemetery with approximately 700 tombs, a chapel within the cemetery, a parish church, and most of the farm land in the parish belongs to the Catholic parish;
Whereas several generations of Catholics are buried in the village cemetery which is over 100 years old and considered a national historic heritage site, and the chapel in the cemetery serves as the place of worship for hundreds of parishioners living near the cemetery;
Whereas the People’s Committee of Da Nang ordered the relocation of the parish cemetery to a mountainous area, far from any inhabitable place and ordered the people of Con Dau to be relocated to another area, far removed from the newly designated relocation of the cemetery;
Whereas the people of Con Dau requested that the government not relocate either the parishioners or the cemetery, but rather grant permission for the parishioners to move closer to their church while allowing the rice fields to be included in the new resort;
Whereas the Da Nang authorities refused the petition of the parishioners and on January 25, 2010, Da Nang government officials led an aggressive week long campaign in Con Dau, with armed police officers and government officials going from house to house to exert pressure on the parishioners to sign an agreement to sell their land and move;
Whereas, on January 26, 2010, 400 Con Dau heads of household signed an appeal letter to the Vietnamese central government in Hanoi, complaining about the Da Nang officials’ use of threats and intimidation to force parishioners to sign the agreement, requesting to be relocated around their church in order to continue to live in the vicinity of the Catholic cemetery and practice their religion, and filing a complaint regarding the unjust compensation the People’s Committee of Da Nang initially offered in exchange for village land;
Whereas, on March 4, 2010, the People’s Committee of Da Nang led a second campaign in Con Dau to force parishioners to sign the agreement;
Whereas in April, the People’s Committee of Da Nang issued an order and posted a sign in the Con Dau cemetery forbidding future burials and posted police officers to block entrance to the cemetery;
Whereas the police attacked parishioner Le Van Sinh with tear gas when he attempted to remove the sign which had been placed on his father’s grave;
Whereas, on May 1, 2010, Mrs. Maria Dang Thi Tan, an elderly parishioner, died in Con Dau after requesting that she be buried with her husband and ancestors in the parish cemetery;
Whereas, on May 3, 2010, police placed barbed wire at the entrance of the cemetery, and assaulted and dispersed parishioners, including women, children, and the elderly, as they gathered at the chapel in the cemetery to say prayers;
Whereas, on May 4, 2010, during the funeral procession of Mrs. Dang which attracted approximately 1,000 parishioners, local police and a mobile `anti-riot’ police force which had been posted in anticipation of the funeral, attacked the funeral procession and attempted to seize the casket when it approached the cemetery entrance;
Whereas the police ordered the mourners to leave, but several hundred remained;
Whereas after several hours, the police shot tear gas and rubber bullets at the mourners near the casket and began to beat everyone with batons and electric rods, injuring more than 100 people;
Whereas the police then proceeded to search homes, desecrating religious symbols in those homes, to look for suspected organizers of the funeral procession;
Whereas the police arrested 62 persons who were brought to the county police station in Cam Le;
Whereas reports indicate that the police beat each detainee for his or her involvement in the funeral, beating some until they were unconscious;
Whereas a pregnant woman, Le Thi Van, reportedly suffered a miscarriage as a result of the beatings she received;
Whereas after being forced to sign the agreement to sell their land and relocate, admit to false allegations that they had assaulted the police, ordered not to seek medical care for their injuries or speak to the foreign news media, and threatened with additional beatings if they did not remain silent, most of the detainees were released after several days in detention;
Whereas five of the detainees, Nguyen Huu Liem, Phan Thi Nhan, Nguyen Thi The, Le Thanh Lam, and Tran Thanh Viet, remain incarcerated, having been beaten severely, and are awaiting trial based on accusations of `opposing law enforcement’ and `disturbing public order’;
Whereas Nguyen Thi Lieu, remains in detention in another facility and is reported to have been severely tortured;
Whereas, on May 27, 2010, Nguyen Huu Minh, Vice Chairman of the Con Dau Parish Committee, was also arrested for his lead role in meetings between the parishioners and the People’s Committee of Da Nang;
Whereas none of the above detainees have been allowed visits even by their closest family members;
Whereas Doan Cang was also among those beaten and detained but was temporarily released to care for his family while awaiting trial;
Whereas, on July 1, 2010, the police apprehended Nguyen Nam, a member of the funeral support group who had been among those beaten at the time of the funeral procession, handcuffed him, and severely beat him;
Whereas, on July 3, 2010, Nguyen Nam died due to injuries to the head, face, chest, and hands sustained during the beatings;
Whereas many United States citizens have family members who are residents of Con Dau, including victims of police beatings, torture, and detention;
Whereas these violations of human rights of the residents of Con Dau are sources of continuing, grave concern to Congress;
Whereas according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2010 Annual Report, `property disputes between the government and the Catholic Church continue to lead to harassment, property destruction, and violence, sometimes by `contract thugs’ hired by the government to break up peaceful prayer vigils’ and other religious ceremonies;
Whereas property issues involving local Catholics in Dong Chiem, Thai Ha, Tam Toa, and Bau Sen have reportedly led to harassment, discrimination, detention, property destruction, and beatings;
Whereas according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2010 Annual Report, Vietnam’s `overall human rights record remains poor, and has deteriorated since Vietnam joined the WTO in January 2007′, with dozens of arrests and continued harassment of human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, democracy activists, and religious freedom advocates;
Whereas according to the United States Department of State 2009 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, the Government of Vietnam `increased its suppression of dissent’, and `tightened controls over the press and freedom of speech, assembly, movement, and association.’;
Whereas according to the United States Department of State 2009 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, Vietnamese police `commonly mistreated suspects during arrest or detention’ and `corruption remained a significant problem, and members of the police sometimes acted with impunity.’;
Whereas according to the United States Department of State 2009 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, in August 2009, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung `issued a decree that offers compensation, housing, and job training for individuals displaced by development projects. Nevertheless, there were widespread reports of official corruption and a general lack of transparency in the government’s process of confiscating land and moving citizens to make way for infrastructure projects.’; and
Whereas according to the Human Rights Watch 2010 Annual Report, the Government of Vietnam `tightened its controls on internet use, blogging, and independent research, and banned dissemination and publication of content critical of the government. Religious freedom continued to deteriorate, with the government targeting religious leaders–and their followers–who advocated for civil rights, religious freedom, and equitable resolution of land disputes’: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That–
(1) the House of Representatives–
(A) condemns and deplores the violence, threats, fines, and harassment faced by the villagers of Con Dau, Da Nang, for seeking to protect their land, the historic cemetery, and other parish properties, and to receive an equitable resolution of their property dispute;
(B) condemns and deplores the arrests of parishioners and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Nguyen Huu Liem, Phan Thi Nhan, Nguyen Thi The, Doan Cang, Le Thanh Lam, Tran Thanh Viet, Nguyen Thi Lieu, and Nguyen Huu Minh;
(C) strongly urges the Government of Vietnam to hold accountable police and security agents who reportedly beat and mistreated Con Dau residents at the funeral procession and later while the residents were in detention, including a public investigation of those whose actions led to the death of Nguyen Nam; and
(D) strongly urges the Government of Vietnam to consider the implications of its actions in Con Dau, as well as of other serious human rights violations, issues of police impunity, and corruption for the broader relationship between the United States and Vietnam; and
(2) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that–
(A) the President should call on the United Nations Human Rights Council to appoint a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Vietnam to investigate ongoing and serious human rights violations in that country, including those violations targeting the villagers of Con Dau;
(B) the Secretary of State should call on the Government of Vietnam to uphold commitments made during the United Nations Periodic Review of May 2009 to engage with various United Nations special procedures, including inviting the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom or Belief to inquire, investigate, and report on the situation throughout Vietnam and specifically in Con Dau, including the discrimination, police impunity, mistreatment in detention, desecration of religious and historical properties, and the beating death of Nguyen Nam;
(C) the United States Embassy in Vietnam should visit those detained, including, Nguyen Huu Liem, Phan Thi Nhan, Nguyen Thi The, Doan Cang, Le Thanh Lam, Tran Thanh Viet, Nguyen Thi Lieu, and Nguyen Huu Minh, as well as the family of Nguyen Nam, and other parishioners, and report its findings to Congress;
(D) the United States Embassy should continue to raise with the Government of Vietnam the issues faced by the village of Con Dau including police impunity, beatings, fines, and the deaths of individuals engaged in a peaceful religious ceremony;
(E) the United States Department of State should examine instances of property disputes in Vietnam which involve religious communities, including the case of Con Dau, report its findings to Congress, and continue to raise disputed religious properties at United States-Vietnam meetings and forums, including the bilateral United States-Vietnam human rights dialogue; and
(F) the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom should visit the Con Dau parishioners and report to Congress on the violence and harassment faced by the Catholic villagers.