The EU and Vietnam held on 15 December 2015 in Hanoi the fifth round of their annual enhanced Dialogue on Human Rights in the spirit of the EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) signed in 2012. The EU delegation was led by Mr Ugo Astuto, acting Managing Director Asia and the Pacific in the European External Action Services (EEAS). The Vietnamese delegation was led by Mr Vu Anh Quang, Director General of the International Organizations Department of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and included officials from various ministries and agencies.
The Dialogue allowed the two sides to exchange views on a wide range of issues and was conducted in a constructive and result-oriented manner. As stated in the joint press statement of 2 Dec. 2015 by President Donald Tusk, President Jean-Claude Juncker and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, both sides agreed that their strengthened partnership will allow to better address future challenges on the road towards prosperous, democratic and just societies. They reiterated their conviction that good governance, respect for human rights, the rule of law and adherence to the international rules-based system are determining factors for development.
The EU and Vietnam had a detailed exchange of views on a wide range of human rights issues. The EU commended Vietnam for continued progress in socio-economic rights in Vietnam while expressing persisting concerns over political and civil rights.
There were extensive discussions on legal and judicial reforms in Vietnam. The EU noted the revision of the Criminal Code, of the Criminal Procedure Code and the Law on Custody and Temporary Detention. The EU, however, regretted that the revision of the Criminal Code was not seized to bring the national security provisions in line with international standards and with the principles established in the 2013 Constitution. The EU welcomed the reduction of crimes carrying the death penalty, but reiterated its call for further steps towards abolishment of the death penalty. In this context the EU enquired about the situation of several prisoners on death row such as Mr Le Van Manh, Mr Ho Duy Hai and Mr Nguyen Van Chuong.
The EU raised the issues of restrictions to freedom of expression, freedom of the media and freedom of assembly. It reiterated its serious concerns about harassment, arrest and detention of human rights defenders, activists and bloggers like for example Mr Nguyen Huu Vinh (also known as An Ba Sam) and his colleague Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy. The EU also mentioned the recent assaults against labour rights activist Mrs Do Thi Minh Hanh and against lawyer Nguyen Van Dai. In addition the EU raised the cases of several persons in jail, namely Mr Dang Xuan Dieu, Mr Ngo Hao and Mrs Bui Thi Minh Ang. The EU reiterated its request for the release of all persons detained for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression. Furthermore the EU asked to be granted more visits to these persons and to be allowed to observe trials in cases of concern.
The draft Law on Associations and the draft Law on Religion and Beliefs were also discussed and possibilities for the EU to share expertise as well as a support to the action plan for the implementation of the UN Convention against Torture. The EU recalled the importance for Vietnam to ratify outstanding ILO core Conventions.
The two sides discussed cooperation in international fora, both on thematic and country-specific resolutions. The EU welcomed Vietnam’s willingness to engage further with UN Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups. Vietnam informed the EU of its intention to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food for 2016. The EU encouraged the Vietnamese Government to issue a standing invitation to UN Special Procedures and in particular invitations to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders. The EU called for progress in the implementation of the UPR recommendations and enquired about the follow-up to the last visit of the UN Special rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
The Human Rights Dialogue was preceded by meetings with the Ministry of Public Security and with the National Assembly's Committee on Laws. During the latter, the EU encouraged closer inter-parliamentary cooperation with the European Parliament (EP) including the visit to Vietnam of the EP's Sub-Committee on Human Rights in 2016. The sixth round of the enhanced Human Rights Dialogue will be held in 2016 in Brussels.