FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Rights Groups Call on Obama to Get Tough on Vietnam

15 February 2016  – Washington D.C., USA

As ASEAN’s leaders and top officials arrive in town, economic ties will likely be the focus of conversation, but so should Vietnam’s ongoing human rights violations. That is the position taken in a letter addressed to President Obama by a collection of human rights organizations and religious communities leading into the U.S-ASEAN Summit to be held 15-16 February in Sunnylands, California.

“Both countries want to enhance trade relations and we are insisting that universal human rights be a part of that conversation too,” says Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, CEO and president of Boat People SOS.  “The U.S. cannot turn a blind eye to systematic torture and arrests of people who are simply exercising their basic rights,” he adds.

The letter, highlights the case of prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai,  but also calls for the release of hundreds of other political and religious prisoners of conscience. Dai, arrested in mid-December and presently in detention without access to legal representation, is one of many deeply troubling cases.

Evidence points to systematic torture, forced renunciation of faith, and other grave rights violations targeting human rights advocates and religious leaders.

Despite being a party to the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and other international treaties, abuse continues outside and inside the legal system with little hope of justice or reform.

One of the major obstacles to change is the discretionary use of portions of Vietnam’s Penal Code, which includes articles such as “abusing freedom of speech” and “violating national unity”.

New laws on the horizon, such as a draft law on religion, appear to make things worse, not better, leaving domestic law far below international standards and Vietnam’s binding international obligations. This heavy-handed control extends from religion to other types of organizations.  The authors also point out how Vietnam tightly and thoroughly controls its non-governmental sector through disallowing independent organizations, including labor unions, while setting up Government Organized Non-Governmental Organization (GONGO) entities that fall under the full control of the Communist Party.

“President Obama should take this opportunity to really press Vietnam on human rights,” says Thang. “We hope that rights issues in Vietnam and ASEAN are not ignored.”


Read the full letter here

Read letter from Congress member Bill Cassidy to President Obama

Read letter from several members of Congress to President Obama

Learn about Vietnam’s Draft Law on Religion

Democratic Voice of Vietnam is a resource center and hub for independent civil society in Vietnam. It is a space for ASEAN civil society organizations to connect with genuine civil society inside Vietnam to work on human rights issues inside Vietnam and across ASEAN.

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