Every year in the United States, the eleventh of May is marked as Vietnam Human Rights Day, so designated by Congress to highlight our nation’s support for promoting and protecting basic, internationally-recognized freedoms in that Southeast Asian nation.
As is customary, a ceremony and discussion forum was held that day at the U.S. Capitol that included members of Congress, representatives of the State Department, labor leaders, non-governmental groups, and members of Vietnamese communities from across our country discussing the importance our nation puts on human rights and its role in our bilateral relations with Vietnam.
Even as the group was meeting in Washington, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Thomas Malinowski and other top U.S. officials were wrapping up discussions with their counterparts in Hanoi on the need for systemic legal system reform there to align that nation’s laws with both its new Constitution and its international human rights and labor rights commitments.
The U.S. delegation called on Vietnamese authorities to release unconditionally all prisoners of conscience and urged a moratorium on new arrests under national security and other vague provisions of the Penal Code.We are concerned about the treatment of prisoners while incarcerated, and how people are treated by the security forces generally, their rights to due process during court proceedings and to freedom of movement both within the country and to leave the country when they choose.
Since the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Vietnam in 1995, ties between our two nations have increased dramatically. There has been increased cooperation on issues such as promoting maritime security, improving public health and education, providing disaster relief, and expanding trade and investment ties. Concern for the basic human rights of the Vietnamese people, however, remains an integral part of the U.S.-Vietnam relationship.