In a damning report on Vietnam’s human rights record the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) accused the government of not only failing to meet its commitment to protect its citizens’ rights but also intensifying its repression.
The Paris-based human rights organizations submitted their report on Monday to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which will meet to review the report in October.
VCHR Vice President Penelope Faulkner told RFA why the groups submitted their findings at this time.
“Our job as an organization on human rights is to tell the truth, so we’re saying to the United Nations that what Vietnam has told you is not true. This is what is happening in Vietnam.”
Vietnam has committed to inform the UN of the steps it is taking to improve its tarnished record because it is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In the most recent exchange in March 2019, the UN Human Rights Committee made three recommendations to Vietnam’s government, concerning the death penalty, freedom of speech and the state's treatment of human rights activists.
Faulkner said the government had not implemented any of its recommendations.
"Vietnam was examined in 2019 so they should have improved since then but we have seen that the arrest of bloggers, of independent journalists, of people who just use the internet to express their opinions are [leading to] very long sentences,” she told RFA. “I'm thinking of Nguyen Chi Dung, who was sentenced to 15 years just because he sent a video to our committee on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade agreement and he just expressed his opinions. Vietnam always argues and they tell the United Nations they don't have political prisoners but only arrest people who break the law. What is dangerous now is that they are passing more laws that are anti-human rights, which really restrict human rights. People who complain about these laws, who take action, will get arrested leading to heavy sentences."
The Vietnamese government has also been accused of misleading the UN Human Rights Committee by claiming data on the number of people receiving the death penalty had been made public according to the law. In reality, information about death sentences is still classified as a state secret and there is no way to access it.
Faulkner said the FIDH/VCHR report was timely because Vietnam had applied to join the UN Human Rights Council for its 2023-2025 term.
"Vietnam wants to be a member of the UN Human Rights Council and they have put forward their candidate. If it's obvious that Vietnam has a very bad human rights record it might influence [the UN]. So we are here to tell the truth," she said.
On April 27, the Permanent Mission of Vietnam to the UN responded to a request from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association in Vietnam.
Its response followed requests by UN special rapporteurs in December and January.
The Vietnamese delegation cited government decisions and resolutions, claiming they guaranteed those rights.