Vietnam: "Open debates on political rights and freedom of expression and religion are vital", says DROI Chair
This week, the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) visited the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to engage in constructive dialogue, to assess the human rights situation, the country's achievements in the field of socio-economic development, to discuss the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement's potential impact in improving the livelihood of the population.
This week, the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) visited the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to engage in constructive dialogue, to assess the human rights situation, the country's achievements in the field of socio-economic development, to discuss the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement's potential impact in improving the livelihood of the population, including people with disabilities, and also to develop inter-parliamentary dialogue between the EP and the National Assembly of Vietnam with a view to sharing experiences.
The EP delegation, headed by Mr. Panzeri, Chair of the DROI Subcommittee and composed of Mr. Lars Adaktusson, Mr. Adam Kosa, Ms Soraya Post, Mr. David Martin and Ms Beatriz Becerra met with the National Assembly’s various Committees, government authorities, as well as international organizations, religious groups and non-governmental organisations.
Mr Panzeri, Chair of the EP Subcommittee on Human Rights expressed his appreciation for the open discussions and the hospitality of the Vietnamese authorities and has stated:
"We recognise that Vietnam has made economic and social progress and begun a process of advancing economic and social rights; nevertheless we believe that to be successful in sustainable economic development, it is vital to hold open debates on policy areas, including political rights, freedom of expression, association, religion or belief".
During our open discussions with the Vietnamese authorities, we expressed our concern regarding the restriction on freedom of expression. The arrest of bloggers, dissidents, civil society actors, human rights defenders, religious representatives as well as heavy prison sentences and harsh detention conditions go against international human rights conventions as already expressed in the European Parliament’s resolution adopted in June 2016. We called upon the Vietnamese authorities to guarantee fair trials to prisoners, improve detention conditions including by allowing them access to their lawyers, families and medical care.
The EU-Vietnam relations are based on the Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (PCA). The PCA as well as the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) are based on a commitment to promote and respect human rights
We underscored the strategic importance of these agreements in enhancing the human rights of the population and we invited the Vietnamese government to pay full attention to chapter 15 on trade and sustainable development through the adoption and implementation of international Conventions.
We commend Vietnam's ratification of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) while requesting Vietnam to join in the moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards abolition.
The delegation has also raised the issue of the global phenomenon of trafficking in human beings and gender - based domestic violence and commends the Government's continuous efforts in this regard.
The delegation had a fruitful discussion concerning the challenges faced by people with disabilities and on the need to promote a more inclusive society, notably the need to fully implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
We believe that NGOs and civil society organisations' activities covering various issues are an asset as they bring their expertise and grassroots concerns to the attention of elected members and the government. Fair participation of civil society in public affairs is one of the pillars of a sustainable and democratic society, in line with international standards.
The meeting with human rights activists showed the challenging environment in which they operate, facing harassment, arrest and detention. In this regard, we reiterate our commitment to supporting their work and we reiterate the call for an end to their repression.
We called on the authorities to put an end to religious persecution and to ensure that the newly- adopted law on freedom of religion or belief of November 2016 fully complies with international standards. We expressed concern about the required registration at the "fatherland front", which precludes the possibility of independence from the political system".
Mr Panzeri concluded: "As our objective is to strengthen the constructive dialogue between the European Union and Vietnam thereby promoting an atmosphere of reciprocal trust in Vietnam’s taking steps forward in the area of economic cooperation and trade , sustainable development, and human rights, I have submitted a letter to the National Assembly Chair asking him to consider the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee within the framework of the European Parliament Delegation to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)".