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Viet Nam’s Rule of Law & Human Rights

The Constitution contains provisions enshrining human rights and fundamental freedoms. Article 50 states: “In the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, human rights in all respects, political, civic, economic, cultural and social are respected, find their expression in the rights of citizens and are provided for by the Constitution and the law.” To date, no national human rights institutions have been established in Viet Nam.

In terms of the status of the human rights treaties ratification, Viet Nam has ratified or accessed to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its two Optional Protocols on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OP-CRC-SC) and on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OP-CRC-AC). Viet Nam is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The Stakeholder’s Submissions to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) dated 23 February 2009 noted that while the protection of human rights is guaranteed by the Constitution, human rights implementation has been limited by extensive domestic legislation which curtails human rights in compliance with “the policies and interests of the State.” For example, the Constitution affirms the right to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, but only “in accordance with the provisions of the law.” Laws, like the Internet decrees, Press Law, and Publishing Law, purport to protect freedoms but ironically violate the international human rights treaties that Viet Nam has ratified. Writers, journalists, and bloggers are often intimidated, arbitrarily detained, convicted, and jailed or put under house arrest after expressing their opinions publicly on the Internet.

Other findings on human rights violations in Viet Nam include the death penalty as an optional punishment, the authority of police to arrest and detain people without warrants in Social Protection Centres (for street children and sex workers), and reports of physical abuse during policy custody. While freedom of religion has improved, the report noted that discrimination against religious minorities, especially the Christian Montagnards and Khmer Krom, still occurs.

The outcome report of the UPR noted that despite recognising the need to improve the protection of human rights through, inter alia, ratifying or acceding to international human rights instruments, Vietnam rejected a number of crucial recommendations, including:

  • Increase the independence of media from the State;
  • Allow individuals and groups to promote human rights, express their opinions and publicly dissent;
  • Establish a permanent independent human rights monitoring body;
  • Take steps to abolish the death penalty;
  • Amend national security laws used to criminalize peaceful dissent;
  • Issue a standing invitation to all UN special procedures.

Following the UPR process in 2009, Viet Nam has only received the visits of four special procedures, namely the Independent Expert on human rights and extreme poverty (2010), the Independent Expert on minority issues (2010), the Independent Expert on foreign debt (2011), and the Special Rapporteur on health (2011). However, in some cases, the visits were restricted

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