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On 8 December 2016 in Brussels the European Union and Vietnam held the sixth round of their annual enhanced Human Rights Dialogue, in the context of the EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA). Both sides consider human rights to be an important component of their bilateral relations, as recognised in the PCA.
The EU consulted with civil society ahead of the dialogue, holding meetings with NGOs as well as with representatives of the international community.
The Dialogue led to a constructive and extensive exchange on the human rights situation in Vietnam, and allowed for discussions on best practice and the EU's support to reform efforts. Discussions focused on legal and judicial reforms in Vietnam, the freedoms of expression, of religion, belief, peaceful assembly and association, labour rights, the promotion of the rule of law and due process, combatting torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, capital punishment, support to Vietnamese civil society organisations and to Human Rights Defenders, and engagement within the United Nations framework.
The European Union offered to continue its support, including to the implementation of the UN Convention against Torture, as well as to share best practices in legal review processes. The EU also shared its experience on the fight against trafficking in human beings.
The upcoming visit of the European Parliament Sub-Committee of Human Rights in 2017 provides an opportunity to further inter-parliamentary cooperation on human rights.
The EU also raised the ongoing harassment and detention of an increasing number of human rights defenders and activists. Furthermore, the EU highlighted the importance of ensuring that all detainees are able to receive visits, including from lawyers, medical personnel and family members, in line with the Vietnamese Constitution and international human rights provisions.
A number of individual cases were raised, in particular: Mr. Ngo Hao, Mr. Nguyen Huu Vinh (blogger Anh Ba Sam) and his assistant Ms. Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha, Mr Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (blogger Mother Mushroom), Mr. Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, Mr. Doan Huy Chuong, Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang, Mr. Dang Xuan Dieu and the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do.
The EU reiterated that all persons detained for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression should be released.
Cooperation in international fora and the implementation of recommendations from international bodies, in particular those made during the Universal Periodic Review, were also raised. The EU reiterated its encouragement to issue a standing invitation to UN Special Procedures and in particular invitations to the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders.
Finally, the EU encouraged Vietnam to ratify and implement remaining international human rights and labour standards and ensure meaningful social dialogue. It welcomed efforts made to allow awareness-raising on the LGBTI rights, and encouraged Vietnam to accelerate its efforts in this area, so that all can participate in public life without discrimination.
The Human Rights Dialogue was followed by meetings with authorities in Belgium, who shared their experience in the fight against trafficking in human beings. The seventh round of the enhanced Human Rights Dialogue will be held in 2017 in Hanoi.
The EU delegation was led by Mr David Daly, Head of Division South East Asia in the European External Action Services (EEAS). The Vietnamese delegation was led by Mr Vu Anh Quang, Director General of the International Organisations Department of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and it included representatives from various services, agencies and ministries.