To: Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives of Member States of the United Nations in Geneva and New York
Re: The Genuine Concerns for Vietnam’s UN Human Rights Council Candidacy & Suggested Steps to Show Good Faith Commitment to Fundamental Freedoms for All
The signatory civil society organizations and campaign groups from around the world would like to express our profound concern regarding Vietnam’s candidacy for a seat in the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2023-2025 term. With one of the weakest compliance of Human Rights records, its election to the Human Rights Council would severely harm the reputation of the UN’s commitment to respecting universal human rights.
As indicated on several occasions by a range of international actors, including by the UN Human Rights Mechanisms itself, the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam systematically violates the rights of its citizens and, in particular, the rights of indigenous peoples living within its borders. The evidence below highlights the Vietnamese government’s pattern of human rights abuse, non-compliance with international law, and failure to meet its UN treaty obligations.
On 22 June 2021, four UN Special Rapporteurs wrote a Joint Allegation Letteri to the government of Vietnam concerning the arrest of Mr. Duong Khai, a Khmer-Krom human rights defender charged with distributing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). On September 20, 2021, Viet Nam responded and admitted to the arrest of Duong Khai for merely sharing the UNDRIP.
On 17 December 2021, Ravina Shamdasani – the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – delivered press briefing notes on Vietnamii expressing deep concern over the “harsh sentencing of human rights and land rights defenders convicted of spreading anti-state propaganda in Vietnam.” The statement concluded by calling on the Vietnamese government to “repeal all legal provisions that violate fundamental freedoms,” stating that the articles under which these activists were convicted were inconsistent with international human rights norms.
On 7 April 2022, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to suspend Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Viet Nam was one of the countries that voted against it. Should Viet Nam be a member of the Human Rights Council if it voted against the UN resolution to hold Russia accountable for its human rights violations against the Ukrainians?
On 18 November 2016, the 14th National Assembly passed a so-called “Law on Belief and Religion.” The Law on Belief and Religion requires all religious groups to register with the authorities and report on their activities. This contradicts Article 24 of Vietnam’s constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of religion and belief for all. The ambiguity of this law on Belief and Religion gives the Vietnamese authorities the power to prevent the people in Vietnam from opening an independent religious organization. On 3 June 2022, Viet Nam published a draft planning to pass a decreeiii to fine up to 60 million Dong (article 36) if a person joins a religious organization abroad without approval from the authority. This decree is clear evidence showing that there is no freedom of religion in Vietnam.
Furthermore, in an opinioniv adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) at the UN published in June 2022, officials addressed the case of Mr. Chau Van Kham and concluded that his “deprivation of liberty constitutes a violation of international law.” The WGAD further commented on the systemic nature of Vietnam’s persecution of human rights defenders, stating that “the Working Group has observed an apparent pattern in Vietnam of harassing and detaining human rights defenders for their work.” These findings by the WGAD exemplify the systemic persecution of rights defenders by the government of Viet Nam and its failure to comply with international law, criminalizing and arbitrarily detaining those who exercise their rights to freedom and expression. According to the 88 projectv, more than two hundred activists face imprisonment in Viet Nam.
Viet Nam ratified the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). When Viet Nam summons or arrests the human rights activists, Viet Nam continues using torture against the activists and forces them to sign a confession with the alleged crime that they didn’t commitvi.
Despite efforts made by the international community to pressure the state of Viet Nam to comply with Human Rights laws and treaties, the evidence of its failure mentioned above is only the tip of the iceberg. Because of that, and in light of the Southeast Asian country’s many documented human rights violations and failure to meet its human rights treaty obligations, we urge you to withhold any vote for Vietnam in the upcoming Human Rights Council elections. It is a matter of maintaining the credibility of the UN’s Human Rights Council and the global human rights system as a whole.
Access to Justice Asia (AJA)
Campaign to Abolish Torture in Vietnam (CAT-VN)
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)
Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights (HIHR)
Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF)
Tai Studies Center (TSC)
Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO)