Brussels, 17 September 2018
Dear High Representative Mogherini,
Dear Commissioner Malmström,
We, the undersigned Members of the European Parliament, are writing to urge you to push for robust progress in Vietnam’s human rights record ahead of the possible ratification of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA).
After her 25 June meeting with Vietnam’s Minister for Trade and Industry Trần Tuấn Anh, Trade Commissioner Malmström stressed the important opportunity the conclusion of the EVFTA represents for both the EU’s and Vietnam’s economy, and mentioned Vietnam’s “clear commitments to respect human rights and to comply with International Labour Organisation conventions”; we also appreciate the existence of a clear link between the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and the EVFTA, which could lead to the adoption of “appropriate measures”, up to the suspension of the agreement or parts thereof, should one party fail to fulfil its human rights obligations.
However, as this House has repeatedly stressed – most recently in its 14 December 2017 and 9 June 2016 urgency resolutions –, Vietnam’s current human rights record raises grave concerns, and casts serious doubts about the country’s stated commitment to respect human rights: loose provisions on national security have been widely used to suppress peaceful dissent and jail scores of human rights defenders, as highlighted by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights; all media in the country are owned or controlled by the government, the internet is censored and expression of dissent online is arbitrarily punished; since the Communist Party of Vietnam took power in 1954, it has never allowed free and fair elections; the judiciary remains under tight state control, as are the activities of civil society and religious groups; and independent trade unions are not allowed to operate.
Against this background, and in light of the EU’s commitment to promote human rights in its external policy (art. 3 TEU), including its trade policy, we believe it is essential that the EU articulates a series of human rights benchmarks that Vietnam should meet before the EVFTA is submitted to Parliament for approval. In particular, Vietnam should:
· Repeal articles 109, 116, 117, 118 and 331 of its penal code and ensure it is in conformity with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); Repeal article 74 and article 173 of the Criminal Procedure Code and allow all people detained for any alleged violations, including national security related ones, to have immediate access to legal counsel upon being arrested.
· Release all people imprisoned or detained under house arrest for exercising their basic rights, including, among others: Buddhist dissident Thich Quang Do; bloggers Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (“Mother Mushroom”), Tran Thi Nga, Nguyen Van Hoa and Tran Huynh Duy Thuc; religious activists Ngo Hao and Phan Van Thu; labour activist Hoang Duc Binh; pro-democracy campaigner Ho Duc Hoa; pro-democracy activists Tran Anh Kim and Nguyen Trung Truc; land rights activist Nguyen Van Tuc; rights activist Le Thanh Tung; labour activist Truong Minh Duc; rights campaigner Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton; rights campaigner Nguyen Bac Truyen; labour rights activist Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung; pro-environmental activists Tran Thi Xuan and Le Dinh Luong; pro-democracy campaigner Nguyen Dang Minh Man; and pro-democracy and pro-environmental activist Nguyen Viet Dung.
· Revise the Law on Cyber Security and bring it into compliance with international human rights standards, including the ICCPR to which Vietnam is a state party since 1982.
· Revise the Law on Belief and Religion to bring it into line with Article 18 of the ICCPR, notably by abolishing the requirement of mandatory registration;
· Immediately recognize independent labour unions;
· Ratify ILO Conventions No. 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize), No. 98 (Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining); and No.105 (Abolition of Forced Labour).
· Halt all executions and declare a moratorium on death penalty.
Unless Vietnam makes a good faith effort to address these pressing human rights issues and demonstrates concrete improvements and commitment to respect all human rights before Parliament vote, it will be difficult for us to give our consent to the agreement.
1. Ramon Tremosa i Balcells ALDE
2. Eric Andrieu S&D
3. Marie Arena S&D
4. Petras Austrevicius ALDE
5. Izaskun Bilbao Barandiga ALDE
6. Klaus Buchner Greens
7. Wajid Khan S&D
8. Jude Kirton-Darling S&D
9. Mark Demesmaeker ECR
10. Jørn Dohrmann ECR
11. Pascal Durand Greens
12. Ana Gomes S&D
13. Heid Hautala Greens
14. Yannick Jadot Greens
15. Merja Kyllönen GUE/NGL
16. Ilhan Kyuchyuk ALDE
17. Barbara Lochbihler Greens
18. David Martin S&D
19. Marisa Matias GUE/NGL
20. Marlene Mizzi S&D
21. Javier Nart ALDE
22. Maria Noichl S&D
23. Soraya Post S&D
24. Molly Scott Cato Greens
25. Csaba Sogor EPP
26. Jordi Sole’ Greens
27. Helga Stevens ECR
28. Pavel Telička ALDE
29. Julie Ward S&D
30. António Marinho e Pinto, ALDE
31. José Inácio Faria, EPP
32. Mirja Vehkaperä, ALDE