Civil Society Groups Meet with UN Representatives Before the 2024 Universal Periodic Review of Vietnam

Viet Tan

At the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR.

May 7, 2024

In Geneva on May 2-3, 2024, a delegation of civil society groups—including members from Viet Tan, Committee Swiss Vietnam (COSUNAM), Freedom House and Hmong Human Rights Coalition—met with officials of the United Nations to advocate for human rights in Vietnam. These meetings occurred before the 2024 Universal Periodic Review of Vietnam, which was scheduled for May 7, 2024.

The delegation spoke with representatives from the permanent missions of eight United Nations member states, the working groups and special procedures office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and other human rights NGOs. The permanent mission hosts were Norway, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, the United States, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.

The meetings highlighted cases of human rights abuses and discussed ways to hold the Vietnamese government accountable for its gross violations of human rights.

Key areas of concern included the suppression of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Additionally, repression has extended beyond borders such as the kidnappings of activists seeking refuge in Thailand. Environment and energy experts, who once worked with Vietnamese government officials, are also no longer safe from oppression. Lastly, the rights of workers to form independent trade unions and freely associate continue to be delayed without the Vietnamese government’s ratification and implementation of International Labor Convention 87.

The human rights ambassadors were particularly moved by first-hand accounts and stories such as the assault against Protestant indigenous minorities in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, and the Hmong community in the northwest of Vietnam.

The following recommendations were delivered by these host countries to Vietnam, on May 7, 2024 at the 46th session of the Universal Periodic Review.

With the permanent mission of Switzerland

Switzerland recommends Vietnam to:

  1. Abolish the death penalty
  2. Repeal Penal Code Art. 117, 118 and 331 (with a focus on freedom of expression, association and assembly)
  3. Release detainees for exercising freedom of expression, association or assembly
With the permanent mission of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom recommends Vietnam to:

  1. Clarify legal compliance for funded NGOs, advocating fair treatment under the law
  2. Reduce the number of death penalty sentences
  3. Reform Penal Code Art. 117 and 331 (with a focus on freedom of expression, association, and religion)
With the permanent mission of Norway

Norway recommends Vietnam to:

  1. Ensure the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and end practices of arbitrary arrests and detention of human rights defenders, political dissidents, and journalists
  2. Ensure that social organizations can engage fully and without risk of repercussions in the green transition
  3. Take necessary measures to increase women’s representation in executive bodies at national and local levels, in line with the national strategy
  4. Establish a moratorium on executions, working towards the repeal of the death penalty
With the permanent mission of Luxembourg

Luxembourg recommends Vietnam to:

  1. Create an independent national human rights institution based on the UN Paris Principles
  2. Bring anti-terrorism legislation in line with international standards, including in the digital space
  3. Work towards an environment favorable for an independent civil society by facilitating the registration, work, and financing of national and international NGOs
  4. Implement the UN “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” with particular inclusion of indigenous communities
  5. Place a moratorium on executions of death penalty cases
With the permanent mission of the United States

The United States recommends Vietnam to:

  1. Revise Penal Code Art. 117 and 331 (with a focus on freedom of expression, association, and religion)
  2. Strengthen protections for freedom of association by allowing NGOs to operate without undue regulatory burdens
  3. Cease faith coercion and revise Law on Belief and Religion
  4. Free human rights defenders, investigate abuse by officials, ensure the right to a fair trial, and provide redress for human rights violations
With the permanent mission of the Netherlands

The Netherlands recommends Vietnam to:

  1. Protect fundamental freedoms, such as the right to freedom of expression, and guarantee fair trials
  2. Ensure participation of socio-political organizations, NGOs and communities in policy making.
With the permanent mission of Denmark

Denmark recommends Vietnam to:

  1. Revise Decree 80 and other legislation that hinder the operations of NGOs in violation of Art. 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  2. Revise the Law on Religion and Belief to allow independent religious institutions to practice freely
  3. Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
With the permanent mission of Germany

Germany recommends Vietnam to:

1.Ensure the participation of nonstate actors and NGOs in managing climate change and consultation mechanisms
2. Ensure freedom of speech as provided for in the ICCPR, e.g. by examining amendments to Art. 109, 117 and 331 of the Vietnamese penal code during its upcoming review
3. Ratify ILO convention 87 as foreseen in the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement and ensure its implementation
4. Ensure that prison conditions are in line with applicable international legislation and the Vietnamese Ministry of Health’s national guidelines on minimum nutrition standards