Viet Nam: FIDH banned from attending the ASEAN People's Forum in Vietnam
Paris, 21 September 2010: The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders denounces the refusal by the Vietnamese authorities to allow participation of two FIDH representatives in the ASEAN People's Forum (APF), in Hanoi. The APF is a major civil society event bringing together several hundreds of civil society organisations and social movements active in the field of human rights, development and the environment in South East Asia. The 2010 edition of this event, under Vietnam's chairmanship of ASEAN, will take place in Hanoi on 24-26 September.
FIDH participated in the two previous editions of the APF, held respectively in Bangkok and Cha'am in February and October 2009. The organisation has strengthened its advocacy activities towards the ASEAN in recent years, in response to positive institutional developments illustrated by the adoption of the ASEAN Charter in 2008 and the establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights in 2009.
“We believed that those developments were promising, and it is the reason why we decided to strengthen our activities in the region”, declared Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH. “We considered it relevant to discuss publicly the human rights situation in Vietnam under its chairmanship of ASEAN, because it is an opportunity for the Vietnamese authorities to accomplish reforms that have been consistently recommended by various United Nations human rights mechanisms”, she added. “We never expected, however, that such discussion would be censored in the region, and that FIDH staff would be prevented from participating in the upcoming APF”, she deplored. A formal FIDH request to discuss with the Vietnamese authorities the findings of its recent report on human rights in Vietnam has remained unanswered.
Today, three days before the start of the APF, the two FIDH representatives who have duly registered to participate in the APF received a message from the APF secretariat which reads:
“a member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the so called 'Vietnam Committee for Human Rights', has been conducting all kinds of provocative activities in order to sabotage the State of Vietnam, and it is not at all a truly human rights defender group as it claims to be. The fact that FIDH supports this member’s activities is unacceptable to many Vietnamese people and their organizations. We believe that such agenda and activities are not in conformity with the 6th APF. Therefore, representatives of FIDH are not welcome at the Forum by Vietnamese people’s organizations.”
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders recalls that freedom of association is utterly lacking in Vietnam, and that there are no independent human rights organizations operating in the country. This is the reason why the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) is operating in exile in France. VCHR has long been active in echoing at the international level the many human rights violations perpetrated in Vietnam. Its activities have always been strictly peaceful and in accordance with French and international law. The baseless and disingenuous accusations in the message are only aimed at smearing the reputation of a human rights NGO and do not serve the interests nor the reputation of the people and country of Vietnam.
Under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels, (a) To meet or assemble peacefully; (b) To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups; (c) To communicate with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations.”
“The de facto ban on FIDH to participate in an important regional civil society meeting not only violates the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the spirit of the ASEAN Charter, but also illustrates the intolerance of the Vietnamese authorities towards any discussion on the human rights situation in the country. We regret that Vietnam's chairmanship of ASEAN seems to be a lost opportunity to trigger reforms towards increased respect for human rights and the rule of law in the country”, concluded Eric Sottas, Secretary General of OMCT.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).
- Tel FIDH, Karine Appy/Fabien Maitre : + 33 1 43 55 25 18
- Tel OMCT, Seynabou Benga : + 41 22 809 49 39