After the UN Special Rapporteur’s visit to Vietnam at the end of July, many questions are left unanswered. The visit was made to gather research for a report on the state of religious freedom in Vietnam. Mr. Bielefeldt, the Special Rapporteur, was unable to meet with some individuals and religious organizations and communities due to heavy surveillance efforts by the Vietnamese police.
Religion in Vietnam is heavily controlled under Decree 92, which requires strict registration of religious groups. Bielefeldt stated in a recent UN article, “I received credible information that some individuals with whom I wanted to meet had been under heavy surveillance, warned, intimidated, harassed or prevented from travelling by the police.”
The report from the visit will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council next year.
“Granting autonomy for religious communities to function independently would be a litmus test for the development of freedom of religion or belief in Viet Nam,” Mr. Bielefeldt said. Read the full UN article about the visit, here.
July 28-30th saw Australia-Vietnam human rights dialogue behind closed doors. Listen to Elaine Pearson, Australia Director of Human Rights Watch, speak about Vietnam human rights violations.
A recent article from The Diplomat examines the different approaches that the US and Australia take towards remedying Vietnamese human rights abuses. The article states that the US tends to favor public criticism, while Australia prefers to work in a more quiet and subtle way. Both sides have their merits, especially considering the different power roles that the two countries assume on the world stage.
From the article: “And Australia is not the United States. It is a middle power unable to offer the same strategic and economic advantages of a close partnership that the United States offers. Of course, calling for the release of certain dissidents seems logical, and right. But if they are bargaining chips to be stored it is less than a halfway measure. What would be more useful would be to call for the abolition of the laws under which bloggers, dissidents and journalists are imprisoned. There are three: Article 258, which is helpfully obtuse but refers to abusing democratic freedoms, Article 79, which covers activities aimed at overthrowing the Communist Party, and Article 88, which concerns propaganda against the state.”
Recently-released Vietnamese activist Cu Huy Ha Vu, who now lives in the United States, also called for the abolition of the repressive Articles in his Washington Post editorial.
Click here for the full Diplomat article.
In the midst of the Australia-Vietnam talks, in a letter dated July 29th, 35 bipartisan members of the US Congress wrote to US President Obama, urging him to mandate human rights as part of any deal with Vietnam concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The policymakers called for respect for labor in Vietnam, the release of Vietnam’s political prisoners, and the repeal of Decree 92. Read the full text of the letter, here.
Additionally, news has surfaced detailing even more of the unbearable conditions in Vietnamese prisons. Huynh Anh Tri, who served 14 years for a “terrorism” conviction, along with his brother, is HIV positive. He believes that the unclean conditions of his prison are to blame. A Radio Free Asia interview with Tri’s brother, Tru, notes that the forced sharing of razors and the forced use of dirty shackles are possible contributors to Tri’s development of the illness. Many prisoners cannot obtain clean shackles unless they bribe prison guards for them.
Lastly, on August 1st, international alarms once again sounded as blogger Pham Le Vuong Cac was detained on his way home from UN talks; he was held for 24 hours. Cac is part of a group of activists that attended the UN Universal Periodic Review meetings at the end of June, and he had been traveling outside of Vietnam since June. Cac’s detention raises concerns for the mobility of activists and their decreasing ability to leave Vietnam to spread the word about human rights violations there.
Sign Reporters Without Border’s petition to free Vietnam’s imprisoned bloggers. Sign here!
Donate here: Give bloggers and activists the tools they need to succeed and keep safe in Vietnam’s harsh environment.
Take action for imprisoned Father Ly, a Roman Catholic priest and religious freedom activist
Thank your representatives who sent the letter to President Obama, urging him to consider human rights as a fundamental part of TPP negotiations. Encourage other representatives to speak up for human rights in Vietnam as well.
A list of House Representatives– search by state.
A list of Senators– search by state.
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