Hautala presses Vietnam to improve the human rights situation

A letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam Pham Gia Khiem[:]

Dear Minister,

I have been most content with the dialogue I have had the privilege to have with your authorities in the past and in hoping to continue this, I am writing to you to invite discussion on the most recent developments and reports concerning the human rights situation in Vietnam. Should you allow, I would also raise a few individual cases with a view to receive updated information on their situation.

I, together with Mr Robert Goebbels Vice Chair of the ASEAN Delegation, held a videoconference meeting with and the delegation from the government of Vietnam on 19th of October where several human rights issues were discussed, and since then, the European Parliament Southeast Asia delegation as well as the President of the European Parliament have raised similar issues with the Vietnamese authorities.

While hoping to continue our exchange as soon as is possible, I reiterate my previous concerns about the severe restrictions of freedom of expression and association, violations of religious freedom, and judicial independence and prison conditions in Vietnam.

Recently, I have received reports about the harassment, arrest and imprisonment of at least 30 human rights defenders, activists and lawyers, independent trade unionists, bloggers and pro-democracy activists. I express my concern over in particular over the reports of unfair trials and sentencing on the basis of Article 79 (‘Subversion’) and Article 88 (‘Conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’) of the Penal Code of Vietnam. In noting this I am mindful of the fact that both of these charges have been recently recognized by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to be in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Vietnam signed in 1988.

I would also like to enquire about the situation and government’s action on individual cases of lawyer Le Cong Dinh, activists Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Le Thang Long and Nguyen Tien Trung, activist writers Phma Thanh Nghien and Trân Khai Thanh Thuy, trade unionist Lê Thi Công Nhân, Father Nguyen Van Ly, Nguyên Xuân Nghia, Truong Minh Duc, as well as Nguyên Phong, Nguyên Binh Thanh, Nguyên Van Dài, Trân Quôc Hiên, Truong Quôc Huy, Pham Ba Hai, Nguyên Van Hai (Diêu Cày), Pham Thanh Nghiên, Vu Van Hung, Ngô Quynh, Pham Van Trôi, Nguyên Van Tuc, Trân Duc Thach, Nguyên Van Tinh, Nguyên Kim Nhan, Nguyên Manh Son, Trân Huynh Duy Thuc, Lê Thang Long, Lê Công Dinh, Nguyên Tiên Trung and Trân Anh Kim.I would also feel it necessary to raise some of the cases where concerns of unfair trials have been raised, namely Le Cong Dinh, Cu Huy Ha Vu, Pham Minh Hoang, Duong Kim Khai, Tran Thi Tam and Nguyen Thanh Tam. We have received reports stating that the last four detainees, all members of Viet Tan, have been denied legal representation even though they are charged under Article 79 of the penal code, carrying as a maximum sentence the death penalty.
Most importantly, I wish to draw your attention to the numerous reports that prisoners of conscience would be held in inhumane conditions in Vietnam. I am most concerned over reports of denial of medical care, and in particular of the condition of Trân Khai Thanh Thuy, Nguyen Van Ly, Nguyên Xuân Nghia, and Truong Minh Duc. I urge you in strongest terms to ensure their access to medical care without delay.

In this vein, I urge for the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience, cease all harassment against them and improve the detention conditions. It is equally vital that freedom of expression be guaranteed in compliance with the Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

To add, I would like to enquire of the situation of religious minorities. I trust you are aware of the European Parliament resolution of 26th of November 2009 on the situation of freedom of religion in Vietnam. In this light I am concerned with the reported campaign of religious persecution of the monks and members of Kim Quang Pagoda in the city of Hue which seemingly started on 29th of September 2010. I hope you would be able to send me information of the current situation.

Finally, I would like underline the important role the European Parliament plays in coming into force of the new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Vietnam and the EU, signed on 4 October 2009. For the European Parliament to give its consent, in depth discussions on the above mentioned human rights issues will have to be had between the Parliament and Vietnamese authorities.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Chairwoman of European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights