Thursday, September 25, 2008

US Congress Members Issue Letter on Vietnam's Human Rights Violations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 24, 2008

Sanchez Outraged with Violence at Thai Ha Prayer Vigil and Continued Hostility Against Peaceful Protesters

Sanchez issues letter to President Triet on Vietnam's recent human rights violations

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez led a bipartisan group of House Members in issuing a letter to President Nguyen Minh Triet expressing their serious concerns over the Government of Vietnam's recent human rights violations. The letter details recent incidents of violence, harassment and arrests of peaceful protesters.

"In the last month, Vietnam has intensified its campaign of violence against peaceful protesters", said Sanchez. "I hope the Bush administration will take a stand against the Government of Vietnam's continued violence and its violations of International Covenants. Vietnam must make swift changes to maintain a positive relationship with the United States. "

Sanchez an outspoken advocate for human rights has led congressional efforts in bringing national attention to Vietnam 's human and religious rights violations and has called on the Bush administration to put Vietnam back on the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC), a designation for countries that have "engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

Below is the full text of the letter.

****************************************************************

September 18, 2008
His Excellency Nguyen Minh Triet
President of Vietnam
c/o Embassy of Vietnam
1233 20th Street, NW #400

Washington, DC 20036

Dear President Triet:

We are writing to express our serious concerns regarding the Government of Vietnam's ongoing human rights violations and harassment of democracy activists.

The International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Socialist Republic of Vietnam signed onto, grants citizens the right to exercise freedom of expression, assembly and association. However, the Government of Vietnam's commitment to human rights remains questionable as citizens are persistently repressed and harassed for exercising their freedom of speech.

Most recently, Vietnamese students and bloggers organized peaceful protests on the streets of Hanoi and Saigon voicing their concerns over various policies and decisions of the Vietnamese government.

Unfortunately, the protests turned violent as Vietnamese security police started harassing and detaining many of the activists.

Furthermore, long-time activists including Le Thi Kim Thu, Pham Van Troi, members of the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam and Nguyen Xuan Nghia, a leader of the Bloc 8406 were seized by the secret police and taken into custody for protesting in favor of a multi-party democracy in Vietnam.

Nguyen Van Hai, more commonly known as Dieu Cay, was recently put on trial and sentenced to 30 months in prison for posting about issues of national concern such as corruption, worker exploitation, and police brutality on his blog. A number of other bloggers were summoned and put under house arrest in an effort to stop them from expressing opposition against the Government of Vietnam.

We are also aware that during a Thai Ha prayer vigil attended by over 3,000 Catholics, Hanoi 's police harassed the crowd with tear gas, electric batons, and other repressive measures. We are extremely alarmed by these acts of violence by the Vietnamese government.

During United States Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte's recent visit to Vietnam, he urged the Government of Vietnam to increase political freedom and improve its legal system. Deputy Secretary Negroponte also reiterated the importance of human rights in improving US-Vietnam relations.

As Members of Congress, we would also reiterate that Vietnam 's commitment to human rights is integral to maintaining a positive US-Vietnam relationship. Peaceful protests, prayer vigils and blogging are all forms of peaceful expression that people in Vietnam have the right to utilize in order to express themselves. We urge the Government of Vietnam to stop harassing their citizens and recognize every individual's right to freedom of speech, religion and expression.

Respectfully,

Loretta Sanchez
Member of Congress

Zoe Lofgren
Member of Congress

Madeleine Bordallo
Member of Congress

Dana Rohrabacher
Member of Congress

Dan Burton
Member of Congress

James McGovern
Member of Congress

Stephen Cohen
Member of Congress

CC:

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State
The Honorable Michael Michalak, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam
His Excellency Pietro Sambi, The Apostolic Nuncio

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