Friday, April 20, 2007

U.S. Congress resolution on human rights

The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved April 19 H. Res. 243, condemning repression in Vietnam and demanding the release of prisoners of conscience. The resolution was introduced on March 14 by Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey (R), after the arrests of Fr. Nguyen Van Ly, and lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan; but before Fr. Ly's March 30 trial. Smith commented:

"Father Ly's sham trial proves once again that the regime in Hanoi is not committed to the human rights reforms they promised as a precondition for normalized trade relations. It is not enough for the Government of Vietnam to talk reform - they must also show progress through their deeds... Recent government actions show that Vietnam is moving backwards, not forward. This resolution reinforces our unwavering commitment to human rights reform in Vietnam and demands that the regime in Hanoi cease their persecution of dissidents...There is no compromise, no halfway point when it comes to basic human rights. We must send a clear message to the Government of Vietnam that there is no place in modern society for their conduct."

The resolution also:

- challenged Vietnam's qualifications to be a member of the U.N. Security Council until it improves its human rights record;

- urged that the U.S. "use funds from the newly created Human Rights Defenders Fund of the Department of State to assist with the legal defense and the needs of the families and dependents of Father Ly, Nguyen Van Dai, and Le Thi Cong Nhan;"

- urged the U.S. to re-impose on Vietnam the country of particular concern (CPC) designation "if there is widespread harassment, short-term detentions, long-term house detentions, and arrests of religious leaders and religious-motivated rights defenders and activists;"

- urged that the U.S. "initiate new foreign assistance programs to advance the capacity and networking abilities of Vietnamese civil society, including new rule of law programs to train Vietnamese human rights lawyers, judges, academics, and students about international human rights law; new public diplomacy initiatives to inform and teach Vietnamese citizens about international human rights norms and responsibilities, and projects that support organizations and associations that promote the freedom of religion, speech, assembly, and association."

There were several other provisions to the resolution, basically urging that human rights be in the forefront of bilateral relations, but the provisions above would seem to be the most noteworthy.

A similar resolution was passed last year by the House of Representatives, also introduced by Rep. Smith.

Sources: PR Newswire April 19; GovTrack.US


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