November 4, 2013
Nguyen Tan Dung
Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Office of the State
1 Bach Thao
Via facsimile: +84 80 48924
Via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Prime Minister,
With elections to the United Nations Human Rights Council quickly approaching and with Vietnam standing as a candidate, we are writing to urge your government to take several specific, concrete, visible steps aimed at meeting its obligation to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,” as set forth in UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251.
In making these recommendations, Human Rights Watch recalls that in Vietnam’s note verbale from August 27, 2013, to the President of the General Assembly containing its human rights pledges and commitments in connection with its candidacy for Council membership, your government affirms that that the rights and fundamental freedoms of Vietnam’s people have recently been “respected and ensured in an increasingly effective and full manner.” Further, the government of Vietnam pledges that the respect for and promotion of human rights has been concretized via Vietnam’s “constitution and relevant laws, in their implementation mechanisms and in practice” and, in particular, that the right to freedom of opinion expressed via internet has been “enhanced.”
The real human rights situation in Vietnam is very much contrary to the characterization in the note verbale and if your government’s pledges are to be taken as credible, Vietnam should act immediately to demonstrate their sincerity.
Therefore, we urge Vietnam to signal its willingness to begin to address ongoing human rights concerns in advance of the November 12 elections by immediately and unconditionally releasing the following ten political prisoners, whom – notwithstanding the charges pursuant to which they have been convicted and sentenced to prison – we believe are imprisoned for their exercise of basic human rights: Nguyen Huu Cau, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Le Van Son, Nguyen Van Hai, Ta Phong Tan, Nguyen Van Ly, Cu Huy Ha Vu, Dinh Dang Dinh, Ho Thi Bich Khuong, and Vi Duc Hoi.
Releasing these ten people now will be an important step towards indicating Vietnam’s commitment towards improving its human rights record and will set an example as it campaigns for a seat on the Human Rights Council. They are among the more than 150 individuals, including human rights defenders, political dissidents, lawyers, journalists, bloggers, democracy advocates, religious activists, land rights campaigners, and others whose convictions and imprisonment on politically-motivated charges are inconsistent with Vietnam’s candidacy for the Human Rights Council. Particularly inconsistent with this candidacy is the fact that the number of such convictions is dramatically rising, with at least 61 such people sentenced to prison so far this year, compared with some 40 convictions known to Human Rights Watch in 2012.
Constitutional reform is another step Vietnam could take to demonstrate its suitability for Human Rights Council membership. In this regard,Human Rights Watch wrote on October 22, 2013 to the chairman of Vietnam’s National Assembly urging its members to ensure that the revisions of the constitution currently being undertaken fully meet international human rights standards to protect the rights and liberties of all people in Vietnam. We urge your government to support these recommendations. If the Vietnam government shows it has the political will to undertake such reforms, it would open the door for the National Assembly to initiate pro-human rights constitutional changes.
Among other things, amendments should include adoption of provisions on the right to freedom of opinion and expression as laid out in international standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Vietnam acceded in 1982, and in the explanatory United Nations Human Rights Committee General Comment on freedom of expression.
UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251 also calls for all members of the Human Rights Council to fully cooperate with the council, including with its special procedures. To heed this call, Vietnam should issue a standing invitation to all special procedures mandate-holders. In particular, it should urgently invite the special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression to Vietnam with a view to ensuring it becomes possible to exercise this right in practice there, along with all other human rights.
The Human Rights Council election provides an important moment for Vietnam to demonstrate an enhanced commitment to addressing human rights concerns. Human Rights Watch appreciates your serious consideration of our proposals made in this letter.
 Human Rights Committee, General Comment 25 (37), General Comments under article 40, para 4, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the Committee at its 1510 meeting, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add. 7 (1996), para 27.