VIDEO + FULL TEXT: Independent civil society activists speak at UN Human Rights Council

(VNRN) – Activists representing 10 civil society organizations spoke to the UN Human Rights Council on June 24 as part of the final meeting on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Vietnam’s records.

Human rights lawyer Trinh Huu Long spoke on behalf of the activists present at the UNHRC plenary session, Dr. Nguyen Quang A (Nguyễn Quang A), an economist and activist; Pham Le Vuong Cac (Phạm Lê Vương Các), a blogger and independent journalist; and human rights lawyer Nguyen Thi Vy Hanh (Nguyễn Thị Vy Hạnh).

The independent civil society organizations represented by the four activists are Civil Society Forum, the United Workers-Farmers Organization of Vietnam, the Association of Political & Religious Prisoners of Vietnam, the Brotherhood for Democracy, Bau Bi Tuong Than Association, No-UC FC of Hanoi, No-U FC of Saigon, the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church West branch, the Vietnam Path Movement, and VOICE. The statement read at the UNHRC was made in conjunction with CIVICUS, an international NGO with focus on citizen action and civil society, especially “where democracy and citizens’ freedom of association are threatened.”

The full text of the statement follows.

Thank you, Mr. President.

CIVICUS presents this statement together with 10 civil society organizations in Vietnam. It is our first time speaking at the Council.

But it has not been easy for us to be here. Some of our colleagues were stopped from attending this session. Others were warned not to attend.

Specifically, members of our delegation who attended the last session in February have been subjected to harassment and interrogation since their return to Vietnam. Their passports have been confiscated and one member was severely beaten up. Reprisals are therefore real and continuing in Vietnam.

Worse, the Vietnamese government continues to arrest and imprison voices of conscience. Voices like Tran Huynh Duy Thuc (Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức), the founder of the Vietnam Path Movement who was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment for daring to challenge the one-party rule. And human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan (Lê Quốc Quân) who was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of $100,000 US dollars on the false charge of ‘tax evasion’. All this despite the findings of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s that his detention is arbitrary and unlawful.

Last month, blogger Anh Ba Sam (Anh Ba Sàm) was arrested for the crime of ‘abusing freedom and democracy’ while most significantly, Vietnam continues to detain Activist Bui Thi Minh Hang (Bùi Thị Minh Hằng) without trial, 6 days after Vietnam’s glowing report to this very Council on February 5 on its Universal Periodic Review progress.

There are, in fact, hundreds of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam right now.

Mr. President: Despite Vietnam’s joining the Council and the present UPR, the truth remains that Vietnam continues to violate international laws and in many instances, its own domestic laws.

We therefore urge you and the Council to pay more attention to the ongoing abuses in Vietnam and to assist independent civil society organizations to determine our own destiny.

Thank you very much.

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