BRUSSELS – Human Rights Watch called on Tuesday on the European Union to ask the Vietnamese government to release the country’s political prisoners during its seventh bilateral dialogue on human rights, to be held on Dec. 1 in Hanoi.
HRW said in a statement that the Vietnamese authorities have previously used the occasion of the human rights dialogue to target activists while on their way to meet the EU delegations or after meeting them.
“The European Union should press the Vietnamese government to release all political prisoners and detainees; end repression of freedom of speech, association, and assembly; and take steps to end police brutality,” read the statement.
The statement cited an arrest of prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who remains in prison awaiting trial, in December 2015 in Hanoi when he was on his way to meet with European representatives and the arrest and interrogation of three activists in November after a meeting.
HRW demanded the release of the activist, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, sentenced to ten years in prison for criticizing the Vietnamese government, and whose judicial hearing will be held on Nov. 30, a day before the European delegation’s visit.
The EU “should make it clear that closer ties will be dependent on the release of all political prisoners and the end of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders,” said Brad Adams, Asia director, in the statement.
HRW denounced that at least 105 peaceful critics are currently serving lengthy prison terms, while dozens of others have been arrested and charged for expressing critical views of the government, taking parts in peaceful protests, participating in religious groups disapproved by the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, or joining civil or political organizations that the authorities deem as threats.
“The Communist Party of Vietnam presides over a one-party state that severely limits basic freedoms and punishes dissent,” said the organization, which criticized the authorities’ ban on independent political parties, labor unions, and human rights organizations and the persecution of religious groups that are not under government control.