Vietnam wins seat on UN Human Rights Council despite record of rights abuses

The Southeast Asian nation had conducted a propaganda drive to support its candidacy.
By RFA Vietnamese
A general view of the opening day of the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, June 13, 2022.

Vietnam was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday despite calls by human rights groups that the country should be excluded because of its dismal rights record.

The Southeast Asian nation received 145 of 189 valid votes, becoming one of 14 countries elected by members of the U.N. General Assembly in New York to a three-year term on the council beginning Jan. 1, 2023. The required number of votes to win a seat on the council was 97.

The other countries elected to the council are Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Georgia, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Morocco, Romania, South Africa and Sudan. 

Vietnam conducted an intense propaganda and lobbying drive to support its effort to be elected to the Council, though critics said Hanoi’s poor record at home and diplomatic support for major rights violators abroad disqualified the one-party state.

Critics said Hanoi’s record of cracking down on journalists, activists and social media commentators would make it a poor choice for the council and that Vietnam would join the bloc of countries that block council action on major crises, as it did in its previous 2014-16 term.

The council has long faced criticism that countries seen as major rights abusers are members who team up to shield each other from scrutiny.

“The Vietnamese government should demonstrate a genuine commitment to robust and rights-respecting climate policies by immediately and unconditionally releasing wrongfully imprisoned environmental defenders,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, in a statement issued Tuesday after the voting. 

“As a new Human Rights Council member, the Vietnamese government should show that it’s prepared to uphold human rights rather than violate them,” he said.  

On Monday, four human rights groups — Amnesty International, Article 19, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists — issued the latest statement calling on Vietnam to respect human rights and uphold international obligations to promote and protect them. 

“Viet Nam [sic] must immediately commit to taking concrete steps to improve its human rights performance, including by releasing arbitrarily detained human rights defenders, including journalists, ensuring the rights to freedom of expression and association, and improving cooperation with international human rights mechanisms,” the groups said in their joint statement. “Such steps would be needed for Viet Nam to become a credible member of the Council.”

The rights organizations noted that since announcing its candidacy for the Human Rights Council in February 2021, Vietnam had detained, arrested or sentenced at least 48 journalists, activists and NGO leaders for arbitrary crimes under Articles 117 and 331 of the Criminal Code, such as “abusing democratic freedoms” and ‘promulgating “propaganda against the state” as well as committing “tax evasion.”

On Aug. 4, Vietnam addressed the president of the General Assembly of the U.N., professing its human rights accomplishments and sharing its voluntary pledges. 

The four rights groups recommended that Hanoi immediately release and drop charges against those arbitrarily detained for alleged violations and called for the amendment of the articles to bring the laws into line with Vietnam’s international legal obligations that protect the rights to freedom of expression and association.  

The groups demanded that Hanoi repeal or revise decrees arbitrarily used to restrict the right to freedom of association and to ensure that NGOs can provide human rights education to the public and conduct other activities protected under international human rights law.  

They also jointly called on Hanoi to accept requests by the U.N. Human Rights Council Special Procedures to allow full and unfettered access to the country in order to monitor the situation and report back to the Council on the visits’ findings. Vietnam previously has rejected such requests.

On Oct. 3, three other NGOs — UN Watch, Human Rights Foundation and the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights — jointly issued a report on rights abuses by the 14 candidate countries, including Vietnam, to circulate to U.N. diplomats. 

The report said the rights situation inside Vietnam had not improved. It noted that when Vietnam served on the Council from 2014-16, it opposed resolutions supporting rights victims in Belarus and Iran and failed to support resolutions on behalf of rights victims in Burundi and Syria.  

Another coalition of rights NGOs groups from Europe, the U.S. and Canada had called on U.N. member states to oppose the election of Vietnam, Afghanistan, Algeria, Sudan and Venezuela, countries deemed “unqualified” because of their grim human rights records and voting records on U.N. resolutions concerning human rights.

Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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Dega people in the Central Highlands in Vietnam
Oct 12, 2022 12:22 PM

To Dega people in the Central Highlands in Vietnam knew that the UN Human Rights Council is akin to an " elit club" and also a fact that makes them " the ruling oligarchy of the United Nations". Communist Vietnam government wins or not the seat in the UN council human rights is not a thing to do to Dega people. The atrocities that occurred and are ongoing on the Dega people are genocide. It means the Dega people are struggling with death, it is not like the North and South Vietnamese struggling for equality in their life with human rights stuff.
The Dega people's essential foundation of life destroyed that including land, history, culture, identity and language are destroyed. The very right to the existence of the Dega people is denied by communist Vietnam goverment.
So, the thing is doesn't matter for the US, and the RFA was funded by it the taxpayer including myself to identify or report a true issue in Vietnam ?