Vietnam: Repression of peaceful demonstrations revealed

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In a new report released today, FIDH and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) document the systematic repression of the right to freedom of assembly in Vietnam.

Paris, 20 June 2023. The 58-page report, titled "A History of Violence - Repression of the right to freedom of assembly in Vietnam," provides the most comprehensive account to date of more than three decades of protests movements in Vietnam and the patterns of repression they have faced. Government actions to repress protests have included: unnecessary and/or disproportionate use of force, arrest, detention, prosecution, and other forms of attacks and harassment against protest leaders, participants, and sympathisers.

The report, published in English and French also makes detailed and practical recommendations for the government of Vietnam to implement in order to bring the country’s laws and practices related to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly into line with international standards.

“The amendment of all national security provisions of the Criminal Code must be the starting point to ensure a safe and enabling environment for the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Vietnam. Hanoi should also accelerate the process of adoption of a long overdue law on demonstrations that complies with international standards,” said FIDH Secretary-General Adilur Rahman Khan.

Civil society’s demands met with violence and repression

Overwhelmingly peaceful protests in Vietnam have traditionally covered a wide range of issues, from demonstrations for religious freedom to land rights and relations with China. Other salient issues, such as the protection of the environment, worker rights, or protests against restrictive legislation, have also been among other common triggers of protests in Vietnam.

In the absence of national legislation on peaceful assembly, a number of Vietnam’s highly restrictive decrees and regulations, such as Decree 38 and Circulars 9 and 13, have provided the legal tools of repression of those who have exercised, or sought to exercise, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Most importantly, numerous “national security” provisions of the Criminal Code have been frequently used to arrest, detain, prosecute, and imprison demonstrators and civil society members involved in activities related to public assemblies.

“Brave Vietnamese individuals and communities from all walks of life have paid a very high price for organizing and participating in peaceful demonstrations in defiance of government repression. Foreign governments must apply more pressure on Hanoi to ensure the safe exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, online and offline, becomes a reality,” said VCHR Vice-President Penelope Faulkner.

Individuals who were arbitrarily arrested, detained, and prosecuted in connection with their involvement in peaceful assemblies have often faced further abuses, including: denial of the right to a fair trial; disproportionate prison sentences; poor detention conditions; denial of medical care, ill-treatment, and torture in custody; constant police surveillance; and judicial harassment. In some cases, poor detention conditions and ill-treatment have been fatal.

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