Thursday, March 26, 2009

UN Human Rights council reviews Vietnam

Vietnam's human rights record is to be reviewed along with several other countries at the fifth session of the United Nations Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, to be held in Geneva from May 4-15. Under UN rules, all 192 UN member states are to be reviewed in four year cycles, with sixteen countries reviewed in each of the three sessions held annually.

In preparation for this session, twelve international NGOs submitted reports criticizing Vietnam's human rights performance on a wide variety of fronts. The submissions came from Amnesty International (AI) based in London; the Association Tourner la PAGE (ATLP), based in Maurepas, France; Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), based in Surrey, U.K.; the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) based in Strasbourg, France; the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the Viet Nam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) based in Paris, with two background documents; the Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment of Children (GIEACPC); Human Rights Watch (HRW) based in New York city; INDIG, based in Hawaii; International PEN, based in London, with three background documents; Institute on Religion and Public Policy (IRPP) based in Washington D.C.; the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) based in New Jersey; and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) based in The Hague, the Netherlands.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights posted a summary of the main points raised by each organization. It also posted the submissions of each of the organizations, which can be found at its website, or clicking on the highlighted acronyms in the above paragraph, with the exception of the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ). In addition the office posted the official response from Vietnam defending its policies related to human rights and emphasizing the need for national independence and political stability, which has been used to justify the repression of dissidents and pro-democracy movements, along with other forms of repression. Vietnam did acknowledge, however, "inconsistencies" and "difficulties" in its legal system, and economic inequality and other social problems growing out of rapid economic development.

The principal criticism of Vietnam contained in the sumissions was the continued lack of a rule of law society, with vaguely worded legislation enabling harsh repression against dissidents and restrictions on religious groups; and no genuine right of due process for defendants in political trials. These contradict proclamations found in Vietnam's constitution and other legislative documents, which promise freedom of expression and religion along with other rights.

Other areas of criticism included discrimination against women and ethnic minorities; the use of the death penalty; harsh conditions in prison camps and other detention centers; and widespread corporal punishment of children.


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