Statement before UN Committee review Viet Nam
On 11 and 12 March 2019, lawyer Otto Volgenant attended the review by the United Nations Human Rights Committee of Viet Nam on behalf of Lawyers for Lawyers and he was on the agenda to deliver an oral statement to inform the Committee about the situation of lawyers in Viet Nam. During the review, the Committee reviewed Viet Nam’s compliance with its international human rights obligations, and more in particular the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by Viet Nam.
The statement reads as follows:
Lawyers for Lawyers would like to draw the Committee’s attention to the failure of theauthorities of Viet Nam to ensure the right of access to justice and effective legal representation. Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms requires effective access to legal services provided by an independent legal profession. Fundamental to improving human rights for the people in Viet Nam is a justice system that provides due process for rights holders and allows lawyers to work independently without fear of harassment, intimidation or worse.
There is a small number of lawyers in Viet Nam who dare to represent those who speak out against the Government of Viet Nam, and who dare to contribute to the public debate about topics such as having a future multiparty democracy system in Viet Nam. Many of those lawyers who do, are the subject of threats, harassment, intimidation and physical attacks. Several lawyers in Viet Nam have been disbarred or are subjected to criminal proceedings and detention.
A striking example of this is the prosecution of lawyer and human rights defender Nguyen Van Dai. He was arrested in 2015 while he was on his way to a meeting with delegates from the European Union as part of the annual EU-Viet Nam Dialogue on Human Rights. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that he was arbitrarily detained and recommended his release. Viet Nam did not comply and continued to detain him. In April 2018 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for “trying to overthrow the government”. In June 2018, Nguyen Van Dai was exiled to Germany.
Fundamental to all rights enshrined in the ICCPR are access to justice, effective legal representation and an independent legal profession. Viet Nam fails to implement these fundamental rights. Viet Nam has failed to adequately respond to the Committee’s questions about these issues.
Lawyers for Lawyers calls on the Committee to recommend Viet Nam to take effective measures to ensure compliance with Article 14 of the ICCPR and ensure that sufficient safeguards are in place, both in law and in practice, to guarantee the full independence and safety of lawyers and their effective protection against any form of retaliation, including prosecution, in connection with their professional activities.
Before the review, Lawyers for Lawyers and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada had submitted two joint submissions for this review (click here and here), to inform the Committee about the situation of lawyers in Viet Nam.
The Committee asked specific questions to the delegation of Viet Nam about the situation of lawyers in the country, as can be seen on the livestream below:
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