Amnesty International and other* international human rights organizations released a statement on October 10, 2022, in response to Vietnam’s bid to re-enter the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) for the 2023-2025 term. They cite UN General Assembly resolution 60/251, which requires HRC members to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”
The concerned parties claim that Vietnam’s performance regarding the proper protection and safeguarding of human rights is lacking and that it should “immediately commit to taking concrete steps to improve its human rights performance.” In contrast, Vietnam has argued that civil and political rights within its borders are “better ensured.” The country has also held that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operated in a “conducive environment,” despite the arrest of the three leaders of an environmental NGO earlier this year.
In their statement, Amnesty International and its partners enumerated several instances of Vietnam’s flagrant disregard for the human rights of its citizens, many of whom are civil rights activists, journalists, and human rights defenders. They highlight the ongoing cases of Pham Doan Trang- an internationally recognized independent journalist and human rights defender, who is currently sentenced to 9 years imprisonment on various propaganda charges- and Trinh Ba Tu- an activist who was also arrested under propaganda charges and was “allegedly beaten, placed in solitary confinement, and shackled for days while serving part of his 8-year sentence.”
The statement calls attention to Vietnam’s shortcomings in Freedom of Association and Freedom of Expression. Amnesty International and its partners specify Decree 58 and a draft regulation concerning foreign and local NGOs, respectively. Both give Vietnam’s government the power to terminate NGOs on the vague grounds of protecting “national interest” and upholding “social order.” These two regulations would give state authorities almost unlimited power and scope to silence critics and quell any form of dissent or the expression of dissatisfaction with the government.
Despite Vietnam’s promise to carry out legal reforms to meet the standards of international law, Amnesty International and its partners claim that these decrees are incompatible with the country’s obligation to respect freedom of association and expression under articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Vietnam is a signatory.
The statement also mentions the Vietnamese authority’s constant attacks on anyone who speaks out to defend the human rights of others and themselves. Article 117, which criminalizes “making making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents and items against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” and Article 331, which penalizes “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the State,” are mentioned in the statement as specific legal statutes used by state authorities to restrict freedom of expression.
Related to this, Amnesty International and its partners have documented over 100 cases which used these two Articles to aid in the arrest and imprisonment of human rights defenders and activists. They argue that Vietnam’s continued abuse of critics indicates that it does not intend to uphold its international obligation to “[enhance] its institutional, judicial, and policy foundation related to human rights.”
Amnesty International and its partners end the statement by offering several recommendations for Vietnam. First, they called on Vietnam to drop all charges against all people arbitrarily detained under Articles 117 and 331. Second, they call for an immediate end to using Articles 117 and 331 against future human rights defenders, journalists, and activists. Third, they call for an immediate repeal of the decrees, giving the Vietnamese government unchecked power over foreign and local NGOs. Lastly, they call on Vietnam to accept all UN Human Rights Council Special Procedures requests to visit the country and allow them “full and unfettered access” to observe and monitor the actual reality in Vietnam.
The complete statement of Amnesty International and its partners can be found here