CSW calls on the US to put freedom of religion or belief at centre of bilateral relations

CSW has called on the United States (US) government to put human rights, including freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), at the centre of all bilateral relations with Vietnam ahead of the US-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, expected to be scheduled for 6 October.

The annual human rights dialogue comes at a time when numerous other members of the international community, including the EU and the UK, are seeking closer relationships with Vietnam. Last week UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab visited the country for discussions with his counterpart Pham Binh Minh, with the aim of securing a trade deal. On 30 September, the UK and Vietnam agreed a “joint refreshed strategic partnership agreement,” which sets the direction between the two countries for the next ten years, including a commitment to “co-operate in the promotion and protection of human rights.” On 1 August 2020, the EU-Vietnam Trade Agreement entered into force, despite concerns raised by multiple human rights organisations, including CSW.

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “The US-Vietnam human rights dialogue is a valuable opportunity for the country to raise significant human rights concerns, including those related to the right to freedom of religion or belief. As countries such as the US, the UK and EU, seek increasingly close relationships with Vietnam, it is essential that they do not side-line or ignore ongoing and severe human rights issues in the country in favour of trade and economic gain.”

CSW continues to receive reports of violations of FoRB against every major religious community in Vietnam, including Buddhists, Catholics, Cao Daists, Hoa Hao Buddhists and Protestants. The violations range from harassment, intimidation and intrusive monitoring, to arrest, imprisonment, torture and extra-judicial killing.

In addition, human rights defenders (HRDs) defending the right to FoRB are especially targeted by the authorities. Numerous religious adherents and human rights defenders have been arbitrarily detained, among them are pastor and activist Nguyen Trung Ton, who was arrested in July 2017, and legal expert Nguyen Bac Truyen, who was forcibly disappeared, also in July 2017.

Mervyn Thomas added: “CSW continues to call on the government of Vietnam to ensure that the right to freedom or religion or belief is fully respected for citizens of all faiths and none. We also call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained or imprisoned in connection with their religion or belief, or with the peaceful defence of the rights of others.”

CSW, csw.org.uk