(VNRN) – Vietnam rejected 45 of the recommendations by other countries to improve its human rights record, accepting the remaining 185 of them, at the June 20 meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which concludes the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.
Although the majority of recommendations accepted by Vietnam are vague and hard to evaluate, some are measurable and would require major changes, such as Kyrgyzstan‘s recommendation to “ensure education free of charge in practice” (no. 193) or Luxembourg‘s recommendation to “allow for the presence without restriction of observers at court hearings” (no. 134).
Currently, public education in Vietnam is free in theory, but in practice students are required to pay numerous categories of additional fees to make up for budget shortfall, forcing many to quit. Official figures from the General Statistics Office show that 5.9% of girls and 5.3% of boys ages 5-19 have never been in school, while 15.5% of all children 5-18 years have dropped out of school, with the ratio being even higher in the countryside.
Guaranteeing a public trial will also mark a change in the government’s practice. Several political trials in Vietnam have been closed to the public and even closed to the defendants’ family members. The recent appeal hearing for blogger Pham Viet Dao (Phạm Viết Đào) was scheduled in the last minute and closed to all except Dao.
Other trials limited the number of viewers, forcing the public and even family members to make choices on who could attend. Nguyen Thi Kim Lien (Nguyễn Thị Kim Liên) once commented that during the trial of her son Dinh Nhat Uy (Đinh Nhật Uy), sentenced under Article 258, she had to sit on the sidewalk outside of court, waiting to hear the outcome.
Vietnam rejected 45 recommendations based on what Nguyen Trung Thanh (Nguyễn Trung Thành), the Vietnamese envoy to the U.N.’s Geneva office, considered “inappropriate for the historical, social and cultural characteristics of Vietnam” or “based on distorted information.”
Among those rejected were a recommendation by Greece (no. 176) to “adopt measures to end prosecution of peaceful protesters.” Almost to the point, less than 24 hours before the meeting in Geneva, Vietnam suppressed another protest against the Chinese government for its actions in the South China Sea.
Also rejected were recommendations made separately by Congo, France, Madagascar and Togo, but marked together under number 41, to “establish a national human rights institution in conformity with the Paris Principles.” Those principles call for the creation of national human rights institutions that are funded by the State but are independent of it, and serve as a “bridge” between civil society and the government.
Calls by several countries for the abolition of the death penalty were also rejected.