Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bản đệ trình Kiểm điểm Định kỳ Phổ quát về Việt Nam của cựu tù nhân chính trị Hàng Tấn Phát gửi Cao uỷ Nhân quyền Liên Hợp Quốc ( anh ngữ)

Submission to the UPR of Vietnam
By Hang Tan Phat, former political prisoner

  1. I would like to focus on the following response from Vietnam to recommendations from the 2009 Universal Periodic Review, relating to promoting :

The [Working Group] report on the UPR of Viet Nam adopted on 8th May 2009 includes 123 recommendations. Viet Nam has indicated its support to most of those. We will seriously consider and implement these recommendations to the best of its ability: in particular, continue to consider its accession to a number of international human rights treaties, work out roadmaps and plans to further improve the legal framework to better protect and promote human rights in Viet Nam, take measures to better ensure economic, cultural and social rights, the rights of women, children and ethnic minorities, accelerate poverty reduction programmes, healthcare, education and assistance for ethnic minorities in mountainous areas, and to continue to learn from and share experience with other countries.

  1. Four years have passed and there has been practically no change or in certain areas the situation has gotten worse.
Violations of National Laws
  1. Legal protection for citizens who are detained on allegations of violating the law is guaranteed in the law but not in practice. The Codes on Criminal Prosecution stipulates that every person who is detained has the right to defend him/herself, by him/herself or by a counsel that he/she selects (Article 11), the right to change legal counsel (Article 57), the right to a public, open trial except in cases that involve  national secret, traditions or norms, or by the legitimate request of the detainee (Article 18). The accused detainee  has the equal right to present to the court evidence and request democratic debates before the court (Article 19) and the right to replace a public prosecutor (Article 43). Chapter IV of this Code further explains the rights and duties of the detainee and accused (Articles 48, 49, 50).

  1. However, the reality is quite different from the text of these codes. Detainees are subjected to forced confession using means of mental and physical torture and violence causing pain and fear. They are held in isolation from their family.

  1. The Codes state that detainees have the right to public, open trials. However, those prosecuted under Articles 79 – 90 of the Criminal Codes are denied of this right. For example, the trials of Nguyen Van Hai (Blogger Dieu Cay), Ta Phong Tan, Phan Thanh hai, Dinh Nguyen Kha, Nguyen Phuong Uyen in 2012-2013 were not open to the public. The government deployed troops to block citizens who wanted to attend these trials. Even the father and other relatives of Nguyen Phuong Uyen were not allowed to attend her trial.
  2. Furthermore, the right to democratic debate before the court did not apply to these accused. They were allowed only to say yes or no to questions from the judge. Similarly, the Vietnamese government has violated the rights of those accused of “propaganda against the state”, including myself (Hang Tan Phat), Truong Quoc Huy, etc. The investigative bodies violated Articles 325, 326, 328, 329, 330 about appeals and complaints against allegations, Article 194 about delayed trial, and Article 96 about the detention period.
  3. The Amnesty Law of 2003 provides for the reduction of the prison term, once or multiple times for crimes listed in Articles 58 and 59 of the Criminal Codes, regardless of whether these crimes involved violence or not. However, political prisoners do not benefit from this Amnesty Law except the few who fully complied with the requests of the prison administration. There are political prisoners who have been imprisoned since 1975. The Vietnamese government does not comply with commitments to human treatment of prisoners with severe illnesses. For example, the Vietnamese government does not allow prisoners with terminal illnesses to go home and be with their families; nor are their family members allowed to spend time with them in the prison.
  4. The prison administration has used different forms of torture and human rights abuses so as to humiliate and break the spirit of prisoners. Prisoners being disciplined are forced to stay naked and sleep naked on concrete floor without any cover or blanket. They are fitted with V-shaped shackles, which cause bleeding and infection resulting in permanent injuries. They are kept in suffocating prison cells that are humid and fetid. Food ration consists of 2 small bowls of rice and salt per day. Water is rationed to 1 liter per day for drinking and all other uses. Prison administration often suspends family visits, and provision of food and medicine by family members as punishment.
Violations of Convention Against Corruption (CAC)
  1. Vietnam has ratified CAC and added Article 74 to its Constitution: Prohibition against retaliation against those who expose or complain about corruption. Article 132 of the Criminal Codes establishes penalties against those who violate citizen’s rights to appeal or file complaints. Vietnam’s Law on Petition and Exposition Luật establishes necessary measures to  protect the safety of those who file petitions or expose wrongdoings and to punish those who threaten, retaliate against or humiliate them (Articles 66, 96-100). Furthermore, the government has issued Ordinance 136/2006/ND-CP dated 14 November, 2006 to provide instructions on the implementation of this law, a number of amendments to this law, and Ordinance 53/2005/ND-CP dated19 April, 2005 to explain the provisions addressing acts of threat, harassment and retaliation against those who expose corruption and punishments against those who violate the right of citizens to file complaints and to expose wrongdoings.
  2. In reality, the government itself has retaliated against those who expose corruption and at times even against their relatives. Below are some illustrative examples.
- Mr. Phạm Thanh Bình, Commissar, Chair of the People’s Committee of Nghĩa Đô ward, Cầu Giấy district, Hà Nội, was decommissioned and fired by his superior (Cau Giay District Commissar) for having aggressively fought corruption.
- Journalist Phạm Thanh Hương (Senior Citizens Magazine) fought against wrongdoings in the media agency and as a result was fired and no longer issued a journalist card.
- Mrs. Nguyễn Thị Hòa in Tây Hồ exposed wrongdoings committed by government cadres. She has received threats, intimidation, warnings about her entire family being killed. Her home has been frequently attacked with human feces, dead mice…
- Mr. Nguyen Kim Hop, in Phú Phong ward, Hương Khê district, Hà Tĩnh Province, accused a number of village and district cadres of illegally selling 300,000 m2 of land, causing a number of them to be sentenced to prison. However, the local authorities issued an order to expropriate 4.000m2 of his family’s land.
  1. Even a number of high-ranking government officials have admitted that there are no effective measures to protect those who expose corruption:
- Mr. Nguyễn Đình Phách, member of the Vietnamese Communist Party’s Central Committee, admitted that the fight against corruption has not achieved any fundamental transformations. He also admitted that mechanisms and policies to protect those who expose wrongdoings and corruptions are not effective, resulting in many of them becoming targets for retaliation and persecution.

- Mr. Lê Văn Lân, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Office on Corruption (OSCAC) describes the different forms of reprisal and persecution against those who exposed corruption, including beating, dismissal from jobs, death threats, use of explosives.. For further reference:  
Violations of Freedom of Religion
  1. In its response to the 2009 UPR, the Vietnamese government asserts that:
As a multi-religion country with more than 20 million followers of various religions and 80 per cent of the population having religious belief, Viet Nam always respects freedom of religion. Viet Nam considers this a legitimate need of the people and creates favourable conditions for the lawful operation of religious organizations, which are protected by law and are equal before the law. These organizations enjoy certain preferential treatment, including the provision of land for the construction of worshipping places.

In Viet Nam, the freedom of religion, belief and worship is enshrined in the Constitution and legal documents, consistent with international law. Viet Nam also gives priority to further improving the legal framework pertaining to religion. In that endeavour, on the basis of regular reviews of the legal documents and regulations from central to local levels, the Government develops plans to amend and supplement the current laws on religion and belief. This includes recommendations to the National Assembly on the amendment of the 2004 Ordinance on Religion and Belief to make it more up-to-date and improve its effectiveness in better ensuring the people’s freedom to religious activities. Violations of these rights by local authorities are promptly dealt with so as to avoid any disruption to the people’s religious activities.

  1. However, the reality has proven otherwise. Due to my particular background, I will focus on the violations against the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church.
  2. In December 2012, Human Right Watch reported that Hoa Hao Buddhists were again brutally and systemically assaulted by the government:
- Monk VÕ VĂN THANH LIÊM, abbott of Quang Minh Tự Temple and who was recently released from 7 years of imprisonment (on 5/2/2012), was harrassed and physically assaulted by the government when family members and fellow Hoa Hao Buddhists visited him.
- Former religious prisoners Nguyễn Thanh Phong and Nguyễn Ngọc Hà (husband and wife) were violently assaulted on 5/2/2012 by the police of Mỹ An ward, Chợ Mới district, An Giang Province. Mr. Phong reported: “The person who beat me, Hung, is a member of the An My ward police. He told his fellow police members, ‘push his head down, beat him to death for me, step on him for me. I was about to pass out…” He was detained for over 12 hours at the police station, left without food and forced to pay 150,000 VND for false accusation of traffic law violation.
- The wife, Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Hà, was assaulted when she was at a local market. The police snatched her personal belonging, forced her down to the ground, and beat her up. Bystanders who took pictures or film the police beating were themselves handcuffed and threatented. Voice of the victims: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1g3si5PTIjA.
- At 10 am on 5 April 2013, the local authorities mobilized thugs to disrupt the commemoration of the religion’s founder, Huynh Phu So, at the Long Minh Tự Temple in Long Hòa 2, Lâm Điền A ward, Chợ Mới district , An Giang province. The thugs escorted by the police assaulted worshippers during the ceremony.
  1. My recommendations are:
  1. The Vietnamese government should truly comply with UN conventions that it has ratified or signed and uphold commitments that it has made to the international community.
  2. The Vietnamese government should invite UN special rapporteurs on religious freedom and other relevant areas to visit the country and provide them with unhindered access to witnesses.
  3. The Vietnamese government should allow International Committee of the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International… to make prison visits where there have been reports of human rights abuses, including beatings, solitary confinement, and torture.

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