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VIETNAM

THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS


BRUSSELS 11 APRIL 2019

ADVOCACY TOUR ORGANISED BY:


FIDH - INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
with
QUÊ ME: VIETNAM COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS (VCHR)

FIDH Delegation to the EU - 11, rue de la Linière - B-1060 Brussels - Belgium + 32 2 609 44 23 - Twitter @fidh_eu
Penelope Faulkner
Vice-president of Quê Me: Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR)
Penelope is Vice-President of the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human
Rights (VCHR). She is a specialist in Vietnamese current affairs, human rights
and religious freedom issues. Penelope has authored numerous reports on
legal reforms, minority rights, freedom of religion or belief, women’s rights
and Internet freedom in Vietnam. A member of the European Platform on
Religious Discrimination and Intolerance (EPRID), a Brussels-based NGO
network working to ensure the mainstreaming of religious freedom into EU
policies and practices, she has given training to EU diplomats on freedom of
religion and belief. She is a writer and radio journalist, broadcasting both in English and Vietnamese, and is
currently editorial consultant for the Vietnamese Service of the US-based Radio Free Asia. She has
authored a best-selling book in Vietnamese on her experiences of working within the Vietnamese
community (Quê Nhà, Homeland) which is in its 10th printing.
Quê Me: Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR)
VCHR is a non-governmental organisation founded in Paris in 1975 to promote and defend civil, political,
economic, social and cultural rights in Vietnam. Its actions cover a wide range of issues such as freedom of
expression, freedom of religion or belief, the rights of women, minorities, children, worker rights etc.
Working closely with civil society in Vietnam, VCHR monitors human rights abuses, informs international
opinion through its reports and press alerts, and mobilises international support for human rights progress
and the release of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.
VCHR speaks regularly at the United Nations, the European Parliament and the US Congress, and works
with international institutions, democratic governments and civil society to urge Vietnam to build a society
truly grounded on the rule of law and bring its legislation into line with international standards.
In Vietnam, VCHR brings direct assistance to victims of human rights abuses. It also seeks to promote a
culture of democracy and human rights by publishing reports, articles, or key international and domestic
legal texts in Vietnamese, thus providing a source of news and comment on human rights and religious
freedom currently unavailable in the state-controlled media.

The International Federation for Human Rights


FIDH is an international human rights NGO federating 184 organisations from
112 countries. Since 1922, FIDH has been defending all civil, political,
economic, social and cultural rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights.
For FIDH, transforming societies relies on the work of local actors. Therefore,
FIDH’s activities aim to reinforce their capacities and their influence. It acts at
national, regional and international levels in support of its member and
partner organisations to address human rights abuses and consolidate
democratic processes. Its work is directed at States and those in power, such
as armed opposition groups and multinational corporations. Its primary beneficiaries are national human
rights organisations who are members of FIDH, and through them, the victims of human rights violations.
FIDH also cooperates with other local partner organisations and actors of change.

FIDH Delegation to the EU - 11, rue de la Linière - B-1060 Brussels - Belgium + 32 2 609 44 23 - Twitter @fidh_eu
Key human rights issues of concern

FIDH and VCHR express grave concern about persistent human rights violations in four key areas: right to
freedom of opinion and expression; right to freedom of peaceful assembly; right to freedom of religion
or belief; and the use of the death penalty. The alarming escalation of arrests, unfair trials, harsh prison
sentences and physical violence against civil society, including human rights defenders and bloggers,
already observed in 2017 has grown markedly worse. In 2018, brutal attacks and other acts of harassment
and intimidation against human rights defenders, activists, bloggers, and members of religious groups have
been rife and the number of peaceful activists arrested and the length of prison sentences (up to 20 years)
have increased significantly. At least 150 political prisoners remain behind bars across Vietnam.

Nearly all government critics, bloggers, activists, and human rights defenders arbitrarily detained or
imprisoned were charged under frequently-used repressive provisions of Vietnam’s Criminal Code that are
inconsistent with international standards relating to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful
assembly, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which
Vietnam is a state party. At the same time, the government has adopted new legislation to criminalise the
legitimate exercise of human rights. The Cybersecurity Law, which came into force in January 2019, dealt a
severe blow to internet freedom. The Law on Belief and Religion, which came into force in January 2018,
marks a hardening of Vietnam’s policies on freedom of religion or belief. Immediately after the law came
into force, and throughout 2018 and in 2019, every major religious community, including Unified Buddhist
Church of Vietnam, Catholics, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao Buddhists, Protestants, Muslims and Falun Gong
practitioners, reported being targeted by the authorities.

These trends are particularly disturbing in the context of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA)
and EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA), which will soon come up for ratification and
signature. The implementation of these two bilateral agreements could have serious negative impacts if
they come into effect before Vietnam brings its legislation and practices into line with international human
rights standards.

FIDH and VCHR call on the EU to


Address various shortcomings of the EVIPA, in particular by including clauses that require both parties to
the EVIPA, as well as companies and investors who are protected by, or benefit from, the EVIPA provisions,
to respect international human rights standards and obligations.
Establish an independent monitoring and complaint mechanism that can be used by individuals and
communities who are negatively affected by the implementation of the EVFTA and the EVIPA. This
mechanism should have the authority to make binding rulings with regard to the negative impacts that
trade and investments agreements may have on human rights, including when these impacts result from
their dispute settlement mechanisms.
Develop a ‘clean hands provision’ and policy that requires investors to respect international human rights
standards during the entire duration of their investment and to remedy any negative impacts, before
having access to any form of Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement, such as the EVIPA.
Unequivocally state that the EU’s right to regulate encompasses any activity that aims at respecting,
protecting, and fulfilling, international human rights obligations, whatever the provisions contained in the
EVIPA.
In the context of the EVFTA, ensure an enabling environment for the establishment of domestic advisory
groups that are fully independent from the Vietnamese government and empowered to monitor the
implementation of the trade and sustainability chapter. Moreover, the EU should ensure that Vietnam
releases all arbitrarily detained human rights defenders and guarantees the rights to freedom of
expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and ratifies the relevant ILO
conventions before the entry in force of the EVFTA.

FIDH Delegation to the EU - 11, rue de la Linière - B-1060 Brussels - Belgium + 32 2 609 44 23 - Twitter @fidh_eu
FIDH Delegation to the EU - 11, rue de la Linière - B-1060 Brussels - Belgium + 32 2 609 44 23 - Twitter @fidh_eu