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    Posted December 15, 2013 by
    Seattle, Washington

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    When Vietnam was elected to be a member of the UN in Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on November 12, 2013, it angered many Vietnamese all over the world and inside of Vietnam. The question was why Vietnam was elected to the UN Human Rights Council; it was extremely ironic, according to Human Rights Watch’s world report of 2013.

    “The Vietnam government systematically suppresses freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and persecutes those who question government policies, expose official corruption, or call for democratic alternatives to one-party rule. Police harass and intimidate activists and their family members. Authorities arbitrarily arrest activists, hold them incommunicado for long periods without access to legal counsel or family visits, subject them to torture, and prosecute them in politically pliant courts that mete out long prison sentences for violating vaguely worded national security laws."

    "I hope the government of Vietnam will prove me wrong, but to date we haven’t seen any sort of indication that the government of Vietnam is going to change its policies because the election to the Human Rights Council," Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division said.

    Despite the fact that Vietnam is a one party communist country and has been identified by Human Rights Watch as one of the worst human rights violator countries, it received the most votes from UN members out of the 14 newly elected countries. Vietnam does not have the rule of law; it only has one rule and that’s the rule of the Party. The law in Vietnam is often used only to oppress the people. If anyone goes against it, he or she will often be harassed by the authorities or be arrested and receive lengthy prison terms. This year many human rights activists and bloggers have been imprisoned with heavy sentences for voicing their opinions. Numerous are routinely arrested, beaten, harassed, intimidated and have properties confiscated.

    Many were concerned and disappointed with the decision of the UN and some were hoping that Vietnam would change and ease up on human rights on its people. However, right after Vietnam was elected, its government still continued to violate the people’s basic human rights and has failed to make any significant progress on basic human rights protections as the Vietnamese government had made promises to the UN.

    The recent events occurred on December 10, 2013, when people gathered to celebrate Human Rights Day all over Vietnam for the first time. There were a lot of uniformed and plain-clothed police guarding public areas and ready to harass people. In northern Vietnam, at Thong Nhut Park, balloons marked with the slogan “Our Human Rights Must Be Respected” were given out together with Universal Declaration of Human Rights booklets during the celebration but were soon to be confiscated by the police. A truck load of the confiscated balloons was photographed being taken away by police.

    Police in in Saigon threw very stinky fermented shrimp sauce at the people to stop them from passing out Universal Declaration of Human Rights booklets. Photos and videos showed that police were pushing people, grabbing booklets out of people’s hands and tearing them up.

    Some people were being harassed and beaten up; one person had a serious injury and was rushed to the hospital. It is unacceptable for these kinds of behaviors on the country’s first Human Rights Day celebration, especially shortly after Vietnam was elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council for the first time.

    Vietnam’s egregious human rights abuses must stop. It is not only that the Vietnamese government is unqualified or unworthy to be a member of the UN Human Rights Council, but Vietnam should actually be placed back on the Country of Particular Concern list.

    The question here is how could a country that continues to abuse its people’s rights be allowed to become a watcher on Human Rights?
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