France disappoints on human rights

All smiles - President Hollande is not thought to have mentioned rights and freedoms during his talks with top Vietnamese leaders.

All smiles – President Hollande is not thought to have mentioned rights and freedoms during his talks with top Vietnamese leaders.

France’s failure to stress human rights during this week’s visit to Vietnam by President Hollande has disappointed human rights activists.

French media said that French officials had requested the release of four political prisoners during the three day visit, but President Hollande made no public appeal for rights and freedoms.

The three day visit was focused firmly on economic ties. Vietnamese airlines placed orders of $6.5 billion for 40 Airbus passenger jets.

It was only the third visit by a French president since the end of French colonial rule in 1954 and President Hollande stressed the importance of close cultural and economic relations now that the rancour of the past was over.

He is not thought to have mentioned Vietnam’s poor record on human rights and its repression of pro-democracy activists during his talks with top leaders of the Communist party.

“Human rights must not be sacrificed”

Unnamed officials, quoted by French media, said a letter had been passed to the Vietnamese requesting the release of four imprisoned dissidents.

The reports identified them as Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who is serving a 16 year term, and Nguyen Huu Vinh, who wrote under the name of Ba Sam, who was sentenced to a five year term earlier this year.

They did not name the other two, describing them as a Catholic dissident and a defender of land rights.

Amnesty International had called on President Hollande to seize the opportunity during his visit and make a public appeal for more rights and freedoms.

“Human rights must not be sacrificed to trade and security deals,” the French chapter of Amnesty International said in a statement.

“President Hollande must use his visit to call on the Vietnamese authorities to meet their human rights obligations under international law.”

The organisation stressed the plight of a Vietnamese woman campaigning on behalf of her brother, who died in police custody, as an example of police repression and relative impunity.

It said that Ngo Thi Tuyet had received death threats, and other members of the family had been subjected to violence and intimidation because of her campaign to find the truth about her brother.

Ngo Thanh Kieu died after just 24 hours in police custody. The police said merely that he had refused food and drink.

It later emerged that he had been severely beaten and appeared to have died from his injuries.

“In the face of unrelenting death threats and intimidation, Ngo Thi Tuyet is taking the extraordinary step of making her fight for justice public,” said Amnesty International.