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Vietnam Human Rights Day

At ceremonies at the U.S. Capitol marking Vietnam Human Rights Day, members of Congress, labor leaders, representatives of the Vietnamese-American community, and activists are calling on the government of Vietnam to respect human rights.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed House Resolution 2-4-3, calling on the government of Vietnam to immediately release Father Nguyen Van Ly, Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan, Le Quoc Quan, and others arrested for legitimately expressing their right to free speech.

Both House Resolution 2-4-3 and Vietnam Human Rights Day events reflect the United States' growing concern over the downward trend in Vietnam's treatment of its citizens.

On March 6th, police arrested Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan in Hanoi, the capital. Ngyuen Van Dai is one of Vietnam's few practicing human rights lawyers. Le Thi Cong Nhan, also a lawyer, has served as spokesman for one of several opposition parties that have been created during the last year. She has been a vocal supporter of human rights. Le Quoc Quan was arrested March 8th under Article seventy-nine of the Penal Code of Vietnam which prohibits activities aimed at overthrowing the government.

On February 18th, police in Hue raided the home of Father Nguyen Van Ly, a founding member of the pro-democracy movement known as 8-4-0-6 Bloc. Authorities confiscated computers, telephones, and documents. Father Ly was tried and sentenced to eight years in prison for "spreading propaganda" against the government.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "This trial comes in the wake of. . .an increase in the harassment, detention, and arrest of individuals peacefully exercising a legitimate right to peaceful speech." U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Barry Lowenkron recently raised the issue of human rights backsliding with Vietnamese officials during the April 24th U.S. – Vietnamese human rights dialogue. The United States welcomes recent improvements in religious freedom and the repeal of Decree Thirty-one, which allows for arbitrary detention. The U.S. also calls for concrete steps to improve human rights in Vietnam and for the release of those arrested for the peaceful expression of their views.

The United States is committed to calling every government, including the government of Vietnam, to account for violating the fundamental rights of its people.