[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt [official webpage] on Thursday reported serious violations [press release] of religious freedom persist in Vietnam. Bielefeldt announced three of his planned visits were interrupted and Vietnamese security agents monitored his visit closely.
I received credible information that some individuals whom I wanted to meet with had been either under heavy surveillance, warned, intimidated, harassed or prevented from travelling by the police.
Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesman, Le Hai Binh, issued a statement claiming the government did its best to accommodate Bielefeldt during his 11-day visit. Article 70 of the constitution of Vietnam [text] explicitly provides for religious freedom: “The citizen shall enjoy freedom of belief and of religion; he can follow any religion or follow none. All religions are equal before the law.” However, according to a 2013 religious freedom report by the US Department of State (DoS) [official website], other laws in Vietnam restrict religious practice [DoS report] and the free exercise of one’s beliefs.
The Vietnamese government has faced criticism from the international community over its human rights policies, especially regarding detainment and prison sentences. In March the Hanoi Supreme People’s Court sentenced [JURIST report] blogger Oham Viet Dao to 15 months in prison for posting articles criticizing the government. A month earlier the Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam upheld [JURIST report] the conviction of US-trained lawyer Le Quoc Quan, a known anti-government activist. In the autumn of 2013 Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] accused [JURIST report] Vietnamese authorities of using repressive laws against anti-government activists and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the National Assembly of Vietnam [government website, in English] to bring the country’s constitution in line with international human rights standards.