Vietnam is witnessing a worrying negative trend of prosecuting and sentencing of human rights activists and bloggers, in contravention with the country's obligations under international law.
The sentencing on 5 April of seven activists - Mr Nguyen Van Dai, Ms Le Thu Ha, Mr Pham Van Troi, Mr Nguyen Trung Ton, Mr Nguyen Bac Truyen and Mr Truong Minh Duc to prison terms between seven and 15 years - is part of an exercise in extensive enforcement of the national security provisions of the Penal Code.
Noting that "these individuals have peacefully advocated the promotion and protection of human rights as guaranteed by the Vietnamese Constitution as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [...] which Vietnam itself signed up to", the EU condemned the sentences as in direct breach of the country's legal obligations, which the Union "expects full respect for".
The European Union is strongly committed to the protection of human rights defenders in Vietnam and across the world, both politically and practically.
The EU and Vietnam enjoy strong cooperation across a wide range of areas, concerning political issues, global challenges, trade and development. A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is expected to enter into force in 2018 and boost bilateral trade and investment to benefit the peoples of Europe and Vietnam.
An annual EU-Vietnam enhanced Human Rights Dialogue is an important avenue for ongoing comprehensive discussion of issues of concern to the EU, including the full respect of the fundamental rights to freedom expression, association and peaceful assembly.