Saturday, September 26, 2009

Vietnam 'making a mockery' of rights obligations, says Human Rights Watch

From correspondents in Hanoi | September 26, 2009

Article from: Agence France-Presse
(CAAI News Media)

VIETNAM is making a mockery of its obligations under the UN Human Rights Council, an international rights group said.

The communist country has rejected a raft of recommendations to improve its rights record raised during a periodic review by the UN Human Rights Council that ended this week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement.

"Vietnam - a member of the UN Security Council - has made a mockery of its engagement at the UN Human Rights Council," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director of the New York-based organisation.

"Vietnam rejected even the most benign recommendations based on the international covenants it has signed, such as allowing people to promote human rights or express their opinions."

Hanoi rejected 45 recommendations from UN member states, HRW said, including lifting internet and blogging controls on privately owned media, allowing groups and individuals to promote human rights, abolishing the death penalty and releasing peaceful prisoners of conscience.

Of the 93 recommendations accepted by the Vietnamese Government, many consisted only of broad statements of intent to "consider" proposals by member states, HRW said.

"Shockingly, Vietnam denied to the Human Rights Council that it has arrested and imprisoned hundreds of peaceful dissidents and independent religious activists," said Ms Pearson.

"Yet in just the four months since Vietnam's last appearance at the council, it has arrested scores more."

Vietnam said during the Human Rights Council review process that it had no "so-called 'prisoners of conscience'", that no one was arrested for criticising the Government and denied torturing offenders.

"Like China, Vietnam has rebuffed the Human Rights Council in an effort to sanitise its abysmal rights record," said Ms Pearson.

"The UN's rights review offers proof to the world that despite international concern, Vietnam has no real intention of improving its record."

The UN Human Rights Council made its recommendations after one of its regular examinations of a state's human rights records.

More than 10 people have been arrested recently in Vietnam for spreading "propaganda against the state". HRW highlighted the case of Huynh Ba, a land rights activist and member of the Khmer Krom ethnic minority who led protests by farmers in the Mekong Delta over confiscation of their land who was arrested on May 30.

More than 1000 members of the largely Christian Montagnards community fled to Cambodia after security forces put down demonstrations in the Central Highlands in 2001 against land confiscation and religious persecution.

Vietnam has strongly denied a 2006 accusation by Human Rights Watch that it detained and tortured Montagnards who returned home under a tripartite agreement after fleeing to Cambodia.

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