Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam’

Third laureate of the 2018 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent now announced

May 27, 2018

On 27 May 2018 the Human Rights Foundation announced the third of three recipients of the 2018 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent, Vietnamese pop star and democracy advocate Mai Khoi. HRF delayed this announcement for fear that the Vietnamese government would ban Mai from traveling as a result of her pro-democracy activism. Mai will be recognized in a ceremony during the 2018 Oslo Freedom Forum on Wednesday alongside the two other 2018 Laureates, underground group Belarus Free Theatre and South Sudanese musician and former child soldier Emmanuel Jal. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/12/havel-prize-for-creative-dissent-2018-two-of-three-winners-announced-today/]

Khoi is an independent artist who is shaping public discourse in Vietnam. She reached stardom in 2010, when she won the highest award for songwriting in Vietnam. As a celebrity, Mai advocated for women’s rights, LGBT rights, and to end violence against women. More recently, she became the focal point of public discourse after nominating herself to run in the 2016 parliamentary elections. Her pro-democracy campaign sparked a nationwide debate about political participation and ultimately led to a meeting with then-U.S. President Barack Obama. Since running for parliament, Mai has had her concerts raided, has been evicted from her house twice, and is effectively banned from singing in Vietnam. In March 2018, she was detained at Hanoi airport on suspicion of “terrorism” after returning from a European tour.

Despite this harassment, Mai continues to find creative ways to spark conversation on art, human rights, and democracy. In February 2018, she released a new album, “Mai Khoi Chem Gio – Dissent.” In a review of the album, The Economist commented, “If music alone could break chains, this would be the music to do it.” Mai’s work aims to counter the authoritarian ways of thinking that justify social control. She is currently the subject of a feature-length documentary that is scheduled to air on Netflix in 2019.

Mai Khoi is outstanding in her commitment to human rights,” said Havel Prize Committee Chairman Thor Halvorssen. “Through her music and her campaigns, she has put civil liberties and democracy on the forefront of public conversation in Vietnam.

The Havel Prize ceremony will be broadcast live at oslofreedomforum.com at 3:00 p.m. Oslo time (GMT+2) on Wednesday, May 30.

https://mailchi.mp/hrf/2018-havel-prize-celebrates-vietnamese-musician-mai-khoi?e=f80cec329e

Goldman environmental prizes in 2018 go to women human rights defenders

April 23, 2018

On 23 April the Guardian and other papers announced the laureates of the 2018 Goldman environmental prize and note that most of the winners are women. They are grassroots activists who have taken on powerful vested interests. For more on this award: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/goldman-environmental-prize.
Goldman environment prizewinners 2018: (clockwise from top left) Manny Calonzo, Francia Márquez, Nguy Thi Khanh, LeAnne Walters, Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid, Claire Nouvian.
Goldman environment prize winners 2018: (clockwise from top left) Manny Calonzo, Francia Márquez, Nguy Thi Khanh, LeAnne Walters, Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid, Claire Nouvian. Photograph: 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize

This year’s Goldman environmental prizes celebrate six remarkable success stories, five of them driven by women.

In Latin America, the winner is Francia Márquez, an Afro-Colombian community leader who led a 10-day, 350-mile march of 80 women from the Amazon to Bogotá that prompted the government to send troops to remove illegal miners who were polluting rivers with cyanide and mercury. [The dangers of environmental activism have been evident in the murder of two Goldman-prize recipients in the past two years: the 2015 winner Berta Cáceres and the 2005 winner Mexican activist Isidro Baldenegro López]  “The first thing we need is to be more aware of the historical moment in which we find ourselves: the planet is being destroyed, it’s that simple, and if we do nothing to avoid it we will we will be part of that destruction,” Francia Márquez said. “Our time has come, we must act, we have a responsibility to future generations to leave a better world, in which taking care of life is more important than producing cumulative wealth.

South African anti-nuclear activists Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid, [see: anti-nuclear court ruling against former South African president Jacob Zuma]

Vietnamese clean-energy advocate Nguy Thi Khanh,

USA clean-water defender LeeAnne Walters, and

French marine-life champion Claire Nouvian.

Philippines anti-lead campaigner Manny Calonzo.

– see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/19/goldman-environmental-prizes-awarded-san-francisco-activists/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/03/berta-caceres-human-rights-defender-assassinated-today-in-honduras/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/23/unprecedented-win-for-women-in-top-global-environment-awards-goldman-prize

 

What a courageous woman! Vietnamese human rights defender pledges to fight on at home

March 1, 2018

Dissident Vietnamese blogger Pham Doan Trang is shown in an image provided by the website danlambao.
 Vietnamese blogger Pham Doan Trang is shown in an image provided by the website danlambao.com

A Vietnamese human rights defender and blogger – now under house arrest – says she will not travel outside the country to receive a human rights award in March, vowing instead to remain in Vietnam to work for change in the one-party communist state. Pham Doang Trang, author of a recently published book on political engagement that has angered Vietnamese authorities, wrote on Wednesday on her Facebook page that she will not attempt to go abroad to receive her prize, according to Radio Free Asia on 28 February 2018.

I haven’t gone abroad and don’t plan to, not even for a few days to receive the Homo Homini Prize in the Czech Republic on March 5,” Trang said. “I will never leave Vietnam until Vietnam has changed.” “When one is like a fish that has been born in a dirty and polluted pond, one can either find one’s way to a nicer and cleaner pond nearby or to the vast ocean, or one can try to change one’s own pond to make it beautiful, breathable, and worth living in,” Trang said. “I choose this second option”.

[Trang received the 2017 Homo Homini Award from People in Need, an international human rights organization based in the Czech Republic. See : http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/homo-homini-award]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/18/overview-of-recent-campaigning-for-human-rights-defenders-in-vietnam/

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/change-02282018145831.html

https://www.clovekvtisni.cz/en/what-we-do/human-rights-support/vietnam/the-homo-homini-prize-for-2017-will-be-awarded-to-a-persecuted-vietnamese-blogger-4888gp

Overview of recent campaigning for human rights defenders in Vietnam

November 18, 2017

The NOW! campaign, founded by 14 human rights organizations, calls for the immediate release of 165 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam. The campaign has established a comprehensive online database containing information about Vietnam’s prisoners of conscience. According to the database, Vietnam’s prisoners of conscience included bloggers, journalists, environmentalists, students, farmers, and workers who were arrested for their peaceful activism. Together, these men and women are serving 955 years and one month in prison, followed by 204 years under house arrest. Most of them were charged with violating article 79 of the criminal law, “plotting to overthrow the government”, and article 88, “conducting propaganda against the state”. But Civil Rights Defenders, one of the members of the NOW! campaign, said that the number of prisoners of conscience could be higher. [see also earlier post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/14/assaults-on-human-rights-defenders-on-the-rise-in-vietnam/]

A letter signed by 17 civil society organizations urged leaders who attended the 2017 summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Vietnam to raise the issue of human rights violations committed by state forces. The letter informed APEC leaders that Vietnam has detained at least 25 peaceful activists and bloggers since last year. “This crackdown is contrary to the goal of “Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future” which is the stated theme of this year’s APEC gathering. Arbitrary detention, censorship, and state-sponsored violence against activists and human rights defenders are not only an affront to our common humanity but a grave violation of international human rights laws and standards. We believe it is in the strong interest of APEC and of the international community to speak out against the widespread and systematic violations of human rights violations in Vietnam.”

Nine human rights groups launched the #StopTheCrackdownVN campaign decrying the crackdown of bloggers and activists in recent months and the harsh prison terms handed out to critics of the state. Don Le, a writer and member of Viet Tan political party, explained how the notorious articles 79 and 88 of the law are used by authorities to silence citizens: The law also allows authorities to filter, block or temporarily shutdown networks on the basis of any information that may be seen to “incite” mass gatherings that disturb national security and order. Given the Vietnamese government’s broad interpretation of national security, we might expect to see more attacks and shutdowns aimed at independent media and bloggers and arrests of peaceful community mobilisers.

But Vietnam is not easily impressed as the recent case of reprisals shows: Front Line Defenders reports that three human rights defenders were briefly arrested after meeting the EU Delegation in Hanoi. [On 16 November 2017, human rights defenders Pham Doan Trang, Bui Thi Minh Hang and Nguyen Quang were arrested by police after attending a meeting with the European Union Delegation in Hanoi to discuss human rights issues ahead of the EU – Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, scheduled for 1 December 2017. After being kept incommunicado without access to legal representation, the human rights defenders were released. They remain under surveillance.] From Line adds that: Authorities in Vietnam have a habit of tightening the grip over human rights defenders and civil society ahead of international meetings. During the APEC Summit in Danang between 6 and 10 November 2017, and afterwards, during the state visits of U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, several human rights defenders and activists were kept under house arrest and heavy surveillance. Reports also state that human rights defenders were harassed by policemen in plainclothes to prevent them from meeting with international officials or organising demonstrations.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement in July 2017 expressing concern about the detention and persecution of citizen journalists: We urge the Vietnamese authorities to immediately release all those detained in connection with their exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, and to amend the overly broad ill-defined laws that are used – under the pretext of national security – to crack down on dissent.

The kind of blogging that got Mother Mushroom 10 years imprisonment in Vietnam

July 6, 2017

On 20 April 2015 I reported on a Vietnamese blogger nicknamed “Mother Mushroom” being awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year award [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/20/vietnamese-blogger-mother-mushroom-gets-civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award-2015/]. Now a long piece by Visen Liu under the title ““Why did the fish die?” goes into detail about  why Vietnam thinks it needs to imprison for 10 years a mom blogger.

Last week, Vietnam convicted and sentenced her to prison for a decade on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state.” The main evidence against her? A body of writing, some 400 Facebook posts about fish deaths, China’s intervention in the South China Sea, and police brutality in Vietnam. Her Facebook posts were described by the police as “a pessimistic, one-sided view that caused public confusion and affected the people’s faith [in the State].”

Nguyen has described her writing differently, saying it was motivated by wanting to leave a better country for her children. She’s part of a wave of environmental activism that is growing in the one-party state where civil liberties and the press are severely restricted; in recent years Vietnam has seen public rallies over harm to marine life and to protect trees. Over years, from posting about parenting, she graduated to impassioned writing about the environment and human rights:

  • The 2016 fish die-off. Nguyen has often posted about the deaths of some 70 metric tons of fish in April 2016 that locals blamed on waste water from a new steel plant in the Ha Tinh province owned by Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, a subsidiary of Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group, a major investor in Vietnam. State-media first blamed the firm for the marine crisis, which hurt both fishing and tourism, but then back-tracked. The firm also initially said it was not to blame, sparking anger and protestsWhile heading to an environmental rally last May, Nguyen was assaulted in a hotel lobby, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Later that month, Nguyen made it to another rally and managed to hold up a sign asking “Why did the fish die?” Vietnam eventually officially blamed Formosa, which has promised to pay $500 million for clean-up and compensation. Security authorities cited signs they found in Nguyen’s home, including one that says “Fish need water,” as part of their evidence against her, according to the OHCHR.

  • South China Sea In November 2015, Nguyen called on people to rally against the visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping, citing detentions of fishermen as well as China’s treatment of its ethnic minorities. Vietnam and China have ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea. In an earlier post she criticized Vietnam’s stance with China over the South China Sea.

  • Deaths in detention Nguyen and others compiled reports from state-owned media and put together a file called “Stop police killing civilians” about 31 people who died in police custody. The document was later criticized by the police: “[It] bears a hostile viewpoint against the people’s police force.” ….

    Offline protests Apart from blogging, she also waged her battles in offline protests. She actively participated and advocated for activities to promote a freer political atmosphere and cleaner environment. …

..She was detained and allegedly assaulted by police several times before her current incarceration. One time she faced a $66 fine over her Facebook posts. When Civil Rights Defenders, a Swedish advocacy group, awarded her the title of Defender of 2015, she was not able to receive the prize in person as she was in detention. At the same time as she was becoming an increasingly active blogger, Nguyen continued to support her family, including her two children, 60-year-old mom and 90-year-old grandmother, by working as an independent tour guide.

Things came to a head last year. Nguyen was arrested in October 2016 after she accompanied the mom of an imprisoned online activist to help her see her son. Her daughter, now 11, saw her being hand-cuffed and taken away by numerous police officers. Nguyen’s son was just two at the time of her arrest. In March, the US awarded her its “Women of Courage” award. Numerous rights groups have called for her release, including Human Rights Watch, Civil Rights Defenders and Pen America.

Her activism has been motivated in part by her strong views that her children should inherit a country where human rights, environmental protection, and rule of law are meaningful and part of everyday reality, and not just rhetoric spouted by the ruling Communist Party,” wrote Phil Robertson, of Human Rights Watch….

Source: Mother Mushroom wants to know: The questions and Facebook posts that led Vietnam to imprison a mom blogger — Quartz

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40439837

Finalists for the 2017 Front Line Defenders Award come from Ukraine, Nicaragua, Vietnam, South Africa and Kuwait

March 31, 2017

The Jury has selected human rights defenders from Ukraine, Nicaragua, Vietnam, South Africa and Kuwait as finalists for the 2017 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk:

emil-kurbedinov.jpg

Emil Kurbedinov, Crimea/Ukraine

Emil Kurbedinov is a Crimean Tatar and human rights lawyer. Since the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, Emil has been defending the persecuted Crimean Tatar minority, civil society activists and journalists. He also provides emergency response and documentation of rights violations during raids and searches of activists’ homes. In January 2017, masked representatives from Crimea’s Centre for Counteracting Extremism detained Emil and took him to a local directorate of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) for interrogation. A district court found him guilty of “propagandizing for extremist organisations” and sentenced him to ten days in detention.

Pham Thanh Nghien

Pham Thanh Nghien, Vietnam

Vietnamese blogger Pham Thanh Nghien spent four years in prison for her work publicising violations against and defending the rights of relatives of fishermen killed by Chinese patrols. Following her release, she was kept under house arrest, during which time she spearheaded numerous human rights campaigns and co-founded the renowned Vietnamese Bloggers’ Network. Nghien has had her home raided, been blocked from attending medical appointments, had a padlock placed on her door from the outside, and been refused a marriage certificate. Nghien has also survived numerous physical assaults aimed at stopping her powerful, peaceful work uncovering and publicising human rights violations in Vietnam.

nonhle_mbuthuma.jpg

Nonhle Mbuthuma, South Africa

Nonhle Mbuthuma has persisted in her struggle for land and environmental rights in South Africa’s Eastern Cape despite assassination attempts, ongoing death threats and the murder of her colleague. She is a founder and current member of the Executive Committee of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, formed to unite community members in five villages of the Amadiba Tribal Authority region opposing destructive mining projects. In July 2016, Nonhle and other activists successfully forced the biggest shareholder in a titanium mining project to withdraw, but threats to activists continue as the community now fears the project will continue with funding from local “front” companies.

Abdulhakim Al-Fadhli

Abdulhakim Al Fadhli, Kuwait

Abdulhakim Al Fadhli is currently imprisoned for his peaceful activism on behalf of Kuwait‘s stateless Bedoon and other minority communities in Kuwait. The term Bedoon, meaning “without” in Arabic, refers to the community of stateless persons, native to Kuwait, who are prohibited from obtaining any official state documents including, but not limited to, birth, death and marriage certificates. Abdulhakim is currently serving a one-year prison sentence and faces deportation upon release. Throughout his imprisonment, he has protested and staged hunger strikes against the inhumane and unsanitary conditions in the Anbar 4 prison facility, where he has also been subjected to solitary confinement. [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/27/car-chase-in-kuwait-bedoun-human-rights-defender-the-target/]

francisca-ramirez

Francisca Ramírez Torres, Nicaragua

Human rights defender Francisca Ramírez Torres‘ children were attacked in attempt to stop her powerful work advocating against a destructive inter-oceanic canal in Nicaragua. Francisca is the coordinator of the Council for the Defence of Land, Lake and Sovereignty, which educates communities on their rights, campaigns for the repeal of laws allowing land-grabbing. The proposed canal would displace thousands of small farmers and indigenous peoples, without respecting their right to free, prior and informed consent. Francisca has been detained, harassed, and had her home and family attacked for her peaceful resistance to this destructive canal project.

The annual Front Line Defenders Award seeks to focus international attention on the human rights defender’s work, thus contributing to the recipient’s personal security, and a cash prize of €15,000 is awarded to the Award recipient and his/her organisation in an effort to support the continuation of this important work.

Source: 2017 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk | Front Line Defenders

Adidas and Human Rights Defenders: no longer run-of-the-mill?

December 8, 2016

In 2012 – in the run up to the London Olympics – the Playfair 2012 Campaign (supported by War on Want and others) highlighted the appalling experiences of workers making Adidas official Olympic and Team GB goods in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. “Around the world 775,000 workers, mainly women, in 1,200 factories across 65 countries make Adidas products. Almost all of the jobs are outsourced to factories in poorer countries, yet through Adidas’ buying practices the company has enormous influence over their working conditions, and ultimately their lives. In the run up the London 2012 Olympics research has exposed the harsh reality of life for these workers.” The campaign demanded Adidas to end worker exploitation. playfair2012.org

In a report of 11 March 2015 on Labor Rights Abuses in Cambodia’s Garment Industry Human Rights Watch noted that brands can do more and said “For example, Adidas wrote to Human Rights Watch that it first started privately disclosing its supplier list to academics and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in 2001 and moved to a public disclosure system in 2007.”

In an article in Open Democracy of 17 June 2015  Mauricio Lazala and Joe Bardwell under the title: “What human rights?” Why some companies speak out while others don’t.state that:More recently, civil society has called on FIFA sponsors to respond to human rights concerns at construction sites for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. So far, Adidas, Coca-Cola and Visa have issued statements supporting workers’ rights in the country

In an article published on 16 November 2015, ISHR Director Phil Lynch explored the role, responsibility and interest of business when it comes to supporting human rights defenders and protecting civil society space. He mentions Adidas in the following context: The fourth and final category of actions, perhaps the most important but also the least common, involves business actively advocating and seeking remedy for human rights defenders and against laws and policies which restrict them. Such action could be private, as I understand to be the predominant approach of Adidas. It could also be public, such as the open letters and press statements issued by Tiffany & Co and others for the release of Angolan defender and journalist Rafael Marques

On 31 December 2015, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre listed in its “KnowTheChain” (a ranking of 20 apparel and footwear companies on efforts to address forced labour in the supply chain) Germany-based Adidas as number one out of 20.

On 21 June 2016 Adidas published its policy on HRDs: “The Adidas Group and Human Rights Defenders“. As there is such a dearth of corporate policies specifically on human rights defenders, here follows the key part in quote:

The threats faced by human rights defenders come in many forms – physical, psychological, economic, and social – and involve the interaction of many factors (poor governance, the absence of the rule of law, intolerance, tensions over development issues, etc.) and can be triggered by different actors, both private and State.

In his report to the General Assembly in 2015, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders recommended that both States and businesses should play an active role in supporting and promoting the role of HRDs working in their sectors. This should include, for example, speaking out when human right defenders are targeted for their corporate accountability work. Businesses must also cease and abstain from supporting any actions, directly or indirectly, which impinge upon defenders’ rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

The adidas Group has a longstanding policy of non-interference with the activities of human rights defenders, including those who actively campaign on issues that may be linked to our business operations. We expect our business partners to follow the same policy; they should not inhibit the lawful actions of a human rights defender or restrict their freedom of expression, freedom of association, or right to peaceful assembly.

We value the input and views of all stakeholders and we are willing, and open, to engage on any issue, be this related to our own operations or our supply chain. Often, our engagement with human rights defenders is constructive, especially where we identify areas of shared concern. For example, with respect to transparency and fair play in sports, or environmental sustainability, or the protection of worker rights in our global supply chain. In these instances, we may actively support the work of the HRD and derive shared value from our joint endeavours in, say, improving working conditions, safety, or the environment.

Read the rest of this entry »

European Parliament zooms in on human rights defenders in Cambodia, Tajikistan and Vietnam

June 9, 2016

A press release of 9 June 2016 reports that the European Parliament – in three resolutions voted on Thursday – focused on:

Opposition in Cambodia

MEPs deplore the worsening climate for opposition politicians and human rights activists in Cambodia and condemn all acts of violence, politically-motivated charges, arbitrary detention, questioning, sentences and convictions imposed on them. The Cambodian authorities should revoke the arrest warrant for, and drop all charges against, Sam Rainsy, President of the leading opposition party, the CNRP, and also immediately release the five human rights defenders still in preventive custody, namely Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, Lim Mony and Ny Chakra. All politicians, activists and human rights defenders should “be allowed to work freely without fear of arrest or persecution”.

Given that the EU is Cambodia’s largest development assistance partner, with a new allocation of €410 million for 2014-2020, Parliament calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) to make the “amount of EU financial assistance dependent on improvements in the human rights situation in the country”. EU member states, foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, the EEAS and the EU Commission should also set out clear benchmarks for the forthcoming elections in Cambodia, consistent with international law on freedom of expression, association and assembly, it adds.

Prisoners of conscience in Tajikistan

Parliament is deeply concerned about increases in the detention and arrest of human rights lawyers, political opposition members and their relatives in Tajikistan. Restrictions on media freedom and internet and mobile communications, and restrictions on religious expression are also worrying in this country, it adds. MEPs call for the release of all those imprisoned on politically-motived charges, including, well-known businessman and government critic Abubakr Azizkhodzhaev, opposition figure Zaid Saidov, activist Maksud Ibragimov, opposition deputy leaders Mahmadali Hayit and Saidumar Hussaini, and 11 other members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).

The EU has a “vital interest in stepping up political, economic and security cooperation with the Central Asian region via a strong and open EU-Tajikistan relationship”, says the resolution. But “political and economic relations with the EU are deeply linked to the sharing of values relating to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”, adds the text.

Protesters in Vietnam

MEPs deplore continuing human rights violations in Vietnam, including “political intimidation, harassment, assaults, arbitrary arrests, heavy prison sentences and unfair trials, perpetrated against political activists, journalists, bloggers, dissidents and human rights defenders”, and call on the government of Vietnam to put an “immediate stop to all harassment, intimidation, and persecution” of these individuals. “The increasing levels of violence perpetrated against Vietnamese protesters” demonstrating throughout the country in May 2016 to express their anger over “an ecological catastrophe that decimated the nation’s fish stocks” are worrying, note MEPs. The Vietnam government should respect the right to freedom of assembly in line with its international human rights obligations, the findings of the investigations into the environmental disaster should be published and those responsible should be held accountable, they add.

The resolution also calls on the Vietnam government to put an end to religious persecution in the country, to amend legislation on the status of religious minorities and to withdraw the fifth draft of the law on belief and religion, currently being debated in the National Assembly, as it is “incompatible with international norms of freedom religion or belief”.

Source: Human rights: opposition in Cambodia, prisoners of conscience in Tajikistan, continuing violations of human rights in Vietnam

UN Committee on NGOs denies NGO the right to speak

February 8, 2016

In a post last year I referred already to the fears that the NGO Committee of the UN was becoming very NGO-unfriendly [ https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/06/07/uns-ngo-committee-seems-not-very-fond-of-ngos/]. Now the ISHR has reported on another case where this UN committee has shown its lack of fair play by refusing let a NGO apply without even wanting to hear the NGO in question. On 1 February 2016 the International Service for Human Rights informed us that the NGO Committee had voted to close the application of the Khmers Kampuchea Krom Foundation (KKF) denying the NGO the opportunity to apply for consultative status.  This came on the back of the Committee’s decision on Thursday to deny the NGO the opportunity to even speak in support of its own application. Only 3 Committee members voted against closure of the application  – Greece, Israel and the US- with Uruguay abstaining. All other Committee members voted in favour.  Vietnam – the State that has consistently objected to the application by the KKF – congratulated the Committee on its decision and its ability – as it described it – to distinguish between ‘genuine’ NGOs and others.

‘The NGO Committee is known for denying NGOs access to the UN through the practice of multiple deferrals of applications.  However, the Committee has hit a new low in denying an NGO the opportunity even to apply for access,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw.  ‘Furthermore, it allowed accusations to be made against the NGO during its own session, without allowing the NGO to respond. The NGO Committee has allowed an NGO to be stigmatised and then silenced.  ECOSOC must reverse the decision of its Committee on this case at its next session in April.’

 

The request by Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to close KKF’s new application was challenged by the US who called the move premature, as the NGO’s application had only been considered once by the Committee. It was agreed the NGO Committee would vote on the application on Friday morning. The members of the Committee then voted on the Chair’s proposal to allow the NGO to speak at the regular Q&A held at the end of each day the NGO Committee sits. Greece, Israel, US and Uruguay voted in favour of allowing the organisation the right to speak. Russia abstained. All other members of the Committee – Azerbaijan, Burundi, China, Cuba, Guinea, India, Iran, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Pakistan, South Africa, Sudan, Turkey, Venezuela – all voted against, except Guinea who was absent.

The US noted that it was essential that the KKF be allowed to speak as this had to date been a one-sided discussion based on Vietnam’s original protest against the NGO. The US noted that ‘a serious allegation of misconduct’ was made against the NGO and the Committee was denying the NGO a chance to respond. They characterised the vote as one between freedom of speech and silencing debate. Committee member Greece rightly noted that one thing is to object to an NGO and another is to silence them’.

Not only has the reputation of the organisation been seriously questioned, but a dangerous precedent set where an UN Committee silences an NGO seeking to engage with the UN. This is plainly incompatible with the rights to freedom of expression and association,’ Ms Openshaw said. ISHR’s view in this regard is strongly supported by the UN’s own expert on freedom of association and assembly, Maina Kiai, who in a report in 2014 said that multilateral institutions have a legal obligation to ensure that people ‘can exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in multilateral arena’. In that same report, the Special Rapporteur was particularly critical of the conduct of States on the UN’s Committee on NGOs, resulting in the systematic exclusion of NGOs working on human rights issues. ‘States sitting on the Committee should champion the right to freedom of association and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,’ said Mr Kiai in his report.ISHR-logo-colour-high

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/jean-daniel-vigny-hopes-to-improve-ngo-participation-at-the-un/

Source: UN Committee on NGOs: Don’t deny NGO the right to speak | ISHR

Assaults on Human Rights Defenders on the rise in Vietnam

January 14, 2016

The second half of 2015 saw an alarming rise in the number of violent attacks and threats against human rights defenders, petitioners, and their family members in Vietnam. The Stockholm-based NGO, Civil Rights Defenders published an overview:

Skärmavbild 2015-12-16 kl. 09.32.35

Between June and mid December 2015, at least 22 incidents of violent attacks were reported through out the country, affecting at least 42 persons (see timeline below). This is an increase from the January-May period, during which at least 14 attacks affecting 27 persons were recorded. Many of these attacks were perpetrated with impunity in broad daylight by police or plainclothes agents. In some cases, defenders’ family members or their private residence was targeted.

These blatant violations of the right to personal security are leaving behind a blood trail that is shockingly inimical to Vietnam’s status as a member of the UN Human Rights Council and a state party to numerous human rights treaties,” said Marie Månson, Human Rights Defenders at Risk Programme Director at Civil Rights Defenders. Vietnam abstained from a UN General Assembly draft resolution on the recognition and protection of human rights defenders.

There has been an increase of violent attacks against human rights defenders in Vietnam in the second half of 2015.

At least 28 defenders and petitioners are known to have been arbitrarily detained and questioned by police in the same period, including blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, the recipient of the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award. [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/vietnamese-blogger-mother-mushroom-gets-civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award-2015/

When its human rights record was reviewed in 2014 under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Vietnam agreed to implement numerous human rights recommendations, including to ensure a “favourable”, “friendly” and “safe and enabling” environment for human rights defenders and civil society actors. In a statement marking International Human Rights Day last week, deputy minister of foreign affairs Ha Kim Ngoc said that Vietnam “steadfastly pursues the policy of ensuring full enforcement of basic rights and freedom for each citizen.”

In addition to violent attacks, scores of human rights defenders and government critics remain in prison after being convicted in unfair trials under broad and vague provisions of the Penal Code. Several activists and bloggers are in detention awaiting trial, including blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh BaSam) and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, former prisoner of conscience Tran Anh Kim, and blogger Nguyen Dinh Ngoc (aka Nguyen Ngoc Gia).

Seriously flawed provisions often abused to prosecute activists remain intact in the recently revised Penal Code, adopted in late November and effective from 01st July 2016. The National Assembly is considering a draft law on associations that contains highly restrictive provisions and intrusive requirements inconsistent with the right to freedom of association.

Click here to download a timeline of harassments and attacks against human rights defenders in Vietnam.

In a statement released on 6 January, Civil Rights Defenders joins 25 human rights society groups in calling on the Vietnamese authorities to immediately release and drop charges against human rights defenders Mr Nguyễn Vãn Ðài and Ms Lê Thu Hà, who have been in police custody in Hanoi after their arrest three weeks ago. The police have charged Ðài, a former prisoner of conscience, and his colleague Hà with “anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code, which carries a prison sentence of between three and 20 years.

The signatories have also highlighted concerns that the two defenders may be at risk of torture and other ill treatment in detention. Ðài was still recovering from injuries he sustained ten days before his arrest when he and three other activists were viciously attacked by stick-wielding, masked assailants in Nghe An province. The police have reportedly denied Ðài access to his lawyer and family members. Ðài and Hà’s arrests came a month before the 12th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). Past party congresses were usually preceded by an escalation of crackdown on human rights advocates and dissidents.

Brave human rights defenders like Ðài and Hà do not belong behind bars and must be allowed to freely conduct their legitimate work defending and educating others about the rights guaranteed by the Vietnamese Constitution and by international law,” says Robert Hårdh, Executive Director of Civil Rights Defenders.

Source: Civil Rights Defenders – Assaults on Human Rights Defenders on the Rise in Vietnam

http://www.civilrightsdefenders.org/news/vietnam-must-end-arbitrary-detention-of-human-rights-defenders/