Human Rights In Vietnam: July 2006
New Report: July 12, 2006
Amnesty International Testimony on Human Rights in Vietnam, Before the Committee on Finance United States Senate Presented by T. Kumar, Advocacy Director for Asia & the Pacific, Amnesty International USA , July 12, 2006
“S.3495 – A Bill to authorize the extension of non-discriminatory treatment (normal trade relations treatment) to the products of Vietnam”
Current Status of human rights
• Restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and association.
• The use of national security legislation and the criminal code to suppress criticism of the government. Much of this vaguely worded ‘catch-all’ legislation contravenes international law and standards to which Viet Nam is a state party.
• The continuing imprisonment of political prisoners.
• The use of severely repressive practices in some ethnic minority areas – notably the Central Highlands.
• Independence of judiciary.
• Restrictions on religious freedoms – continued intolerance of non-state sanctioned religions and denominations
• The application of the death penalty
Deterioration in the following area:
• The internet is an area which appears to be worsening with arrests and secretive procedures.
• Amnesty International is concerned about how the new internet regulations will be used.
Improvements in the following areas:
• Political restrictions appear to have eased ahead of the upcoming APEC summit in November and the WTO negotiations.
• The recent openness in the debate about corruption scandal involving the Ministry of Transport. This scandal led to the first ever appearances for questioning by ministers before the National Assembly, which has investigated the allegations.
• For the first time, the assembly raised a more independent voice vis-à-vis the Communist Party. Parts of the hearings were broadcast on radio and television.
Media are State controlled, censored, and chiefly used as propaganda tools. However, the above mentioned corruption scandal has resulted in an increase in investigative reporting; the media played a role in placing the scandal in the public domain.
Independence of Judiciary
Politically related trials in past years have routinely concluded in a matter of hours, without due process and with heavy jail sentences handed down to those convicted. Accused are regularly held in incommunicado detention, and consequently family members are often refused access to prisoners. Vaguely worded "national security" and spying charges are often used for people who have never advocated use of violence, and thereby criminalize peaceful dissent.
The 2004 criminal procedure code introduced increased rights for defendants, and a new law on legal aid was adopted by the National Assembly last June. Despite this and the fact that legal aid is spreading through the National Legal Aid Agency, access to lawyers remains very limited, as does awareness about free of charge legal aid for poor and vulnerable. Access to lawyers is still distant.
Crackdown on Internet users
On July 1, 2006 a new decree on sanctions for "administrative violations in the culture and information sector" entered into force. Instead of promoting the use of the Internet as a tool for development and exchange, the decree is one in a string of laws, decrees, and decisions that stifles access to and use of the Internet.
Some worrying elements of the decree:
• Introduces further control and prior permission of use of the Internet and circulation of e-mails by the State.
• Introduces fines for journalists for publishing articles with anonymous sources, or refusing interviewees to read prior to publishing.
• Enables authorities to punish offences that are not in the Criminal Code
• Imposes fines of up to 30 million dong (2,000 US dollars), for disseminating "harmful" information by media. Local authorities and police appear to have discretion to define "harmful information".
• Imposes fines for revealing "Party or State secrets" (up to 30 million dongs/2,000 dollars)
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