1 Nov 2006

America pressurising Vietnamese government to repeal laws on illegal detention. But...

This is encouraging news for the development of human rights in the South East Asia region.

If the Vietnam government repeals its detention without trial laws and sticks to it in practice, activists will have less fear of unfair imprisonment. That said, the government may resort to other repressive tactics including unjust trials or other forms of intimidation.

Moreover, the government has still to account for numerous religious and political prisoners remaining in prisons.

According to Human Rights Watch, they include internet users such as Pham Hong Son, Nguyen Vu Binh, Truong Quoc Tuan, Truong Quoc Huy and Lisa Pham, who have been imprisoned for alleged national security crimes.

Religious figures such as buddhist monks from the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, including its Supreme Patriarch, Thich Huyen Quang, and second-ranking leader, Thich Quang Do, have also been imprisoned in their monasteries under police surveillance.

According to the same NGO, the Vietnamese government continues to restrict the freedoms of expression, association, assembly, and religion. Arbitrary arrest, torture, and unfair trials have continued to dog the situation in the country.

Hence, the repeal of this policy, while seen as a step towards the right direction, should be carefully monitored by human rights NGO. There remains much more human rights work to be done in Vietnam.

It is also interesting to note that the American government has had such an influence and has exerted pressure on the Vietnamese government.

While the AFP article mentioned that Bush administration made the removal of the law their top priority in its human rights dialogue with the Vietnam government early this year, and hence, perhaps translated into pressure, we wonder if similar American governmental pressures can be used against neighbouring Asian dictatorial governments with similar detention law?

The irony is of course not lost, given that the American government is guilty of detention without trials in its war against terror. It includes those imprisoned and tortured at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib prison and secret CIA prisons in Europe, as well as their use of illegal rendition.


Vietnam to abolish detention without trial ahead of Bush visit: official
Tuesday • October 31, 2006

Vietnam has decided to abolish the practice of detention without trial, ahead of US President George W. Bush's visit to the communist state in November, a US official told AFP.

"We received word that the government of Vietnam has made a political decision to repeal or abolish this administrative decree," Michael Orona, the State Department's deputy director of the bureau of democracy, human rights and labor, said in an interview.

He was referring to the so-called "administrative detention decree 31/CP," which Hanoi has used to hold many dissidents, and democracy and rights activists.

Washington had made the removal of the decade-old decree a top priority in its human rights dialogue with Vietnam that was resumed in February 2006.

Orona said Hanoi's decision was conveyed to US Assistant Secretary of State Barry Lowenkron through Vietnam's ministry of justice during Lowenkron's visit to Hanoi a fortnight ago as part of the human rights dialogue.

Vietnam has however not made any formal announcement on the removal of the measure, which allows local officials and police to detain any person up to two years without trial in the name of protecting national security.

Asked what would be the implications of the Vietnamese decision, Orona said, "This would mean that the government cannot use this decree to detain an individual any longer and that they would have to actually provide a rule of law access and due process."

With the decree's removal, "whoever is detained will have to know what they are being detained for and be given an opportunity to go to court and to meet with a lawyer -- rights which were not granted before," said Orona, who accompanied Lowenkron on the Hanoi trip.

Hanoi was expected to make concessions on the human rights front ahead of Congress's expected approval of a bill normalizing trade relations with Vietnam, granting full market access rights not subject to annual review.

The approval of the Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) bill is expected to precede Bush's visit to Hanoi for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on November 18-19, during which he would hold talks with Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is expected to approve Vietnam as its 150th member next month.

A raft of Vietnamese laws have been amended to bring them into line with WTO rules and Hanoi has completed bilateral talks on similar legal amendments with all WTO members who had requested them, including the United States, with whom it signed a market access agreement in late May.

Orona expressed gratitude to the US Congress and human rights groups for continuing to highlight human rights concerns in Vietnam and "make an effort to better the human rights environment" there.

He pointed out that since the resumption eight months ago of the human rights dialogue with Hanoi, three "prisoners of concern" have been released by the Vietnamese authorities.

They included Internet dissident Nguyen Khac Toan, a freelance writer judged to have emailed details about farmers' demonstrations to Vietnamese groups overseas and found guilty of espionage, and pro-democracy activist Pham Hong Son, a trained medical doctor, also for alleged espionage.)

"There are two remaining political prisoners or prisoners of concern -- Nguyen Vu Binh and Phan Van Ban -- and we are continuing to press for their release," Orona said.

Lowenkron had also pressed Hanoi to end the monitoring of Internet sites and allow for freedom of the press, he said.

"We have made benchmarks and we have seen them meet what we set out. As long as we see progress, we'll continue the human rights dialogue," he said. — AFP


Anonymous said...

Apologies for using comments.

Possible news on why Today editor was sacked:


Matilah_Singapura said...

The US Govt suspends habeas corpus when it slings "terrorist suspects" in secret CIA detention centres all over the globe and places like Guantanamo Bay.

Now the same govt is telling another govt to "play fair".

Come. Let's all play "spot the double standard".

As an aside, note all the wonderful things that one can do when one is the most powerful govt in the world. It's good to be an Imperialist when one holds all the right cards.

ycbi said...

This is most certainly a case of "Do as I say not as I Do".