Vietnamese authorities are using repressive laws, unfair trials and harsh prison conditions against activists who oppose the ruling Communist government, according to a report [text, PDF] released Thursday by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website]. The report claims that those arrested include [press release] bloggers, labor and land rights activists, human rights defenders, and religious followers. Vietnam is a member of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Treaty [text, PDF], which prohibits state officials from interfering with individuals' exercise of human rights. AI also asserted that Vietnam's bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council [official website] is an opportunity [AFP report] to lobby with the Vietnam authority to improve their human rights.
This is the most recent criticism against the Vietnamese government for its history of suppressing dissident activity. In September an Internet decree [JURIST report] took effect that restricts online discussion of current affairs in the country. In February 22 Vietnamese activists were sentenced to lengthy prison terms [JURIST report] after the group was convicted of engaging in subversive activities to overthrow the county's communist government. Also in February Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] stated in its annual World Report [JURIST report] that Vietnam's government has been "systematically suppressing freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and persecuting those who question government policies, expose official corruption, or call for democratic alternatives to one-party rule" during the last few years. In January Vietnamese authorities released and deported [JURIST report] Vietnamese-American pro-democracy activist Nguyen Quoc Quan after a nine-month detention. Quan was arrested [JURIST report] on terrorism charges for planning protests in support of a banned group of US exiles. In the same month Vietnam convicted [JURIST report] 14 bloggers of subversion and issued prison sentences ranging from 3 to 13 years.