Human Rights are still a dream for many - Dân Làm Báo

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Human Rights are still a dream for many

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Phuong Duy (Danlambao) - On 13 May 2010, Libya was elected to be one of 47 members of the United Nation Human Right Council (UNHRC). Despite its bad record of human rights violations under the cruel rule of the dictator Muanmar Gaddafi, the nation still managed to get 155 ‘yes’ votes to win a seat in the council (1). With this result, the United Nations has sparked a controversial argument around the world. In particular, it had to cope with a lot of criticisms from international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Amnesty International (AI), Human Right Watch (HRW), Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), World Organization Against Torture… for letting a regime as mean as Gaddafi’s win a comfortable seat of a body where it would be able to judge other states’ human rights situations (2). The rogue states such as China, Cuba, North Korea and Syria have seriously violated basical regulations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and constantly mistreated their own people. With their bad records, they should have been boycotted and banned from participating in this organization until their human rights situation improved. However, when ordinary people couldn’t rely on an international organization to protect them from barbarous acts, they made their own way. Just more than a year after taking that position in the human rights council, Lybia saw an uprising in Libya and on 20 Oct 2011, the Gaddafi’s dictatorial regime collapsed. The dictator was killed. Even a place in the UNHRC couldn’t save him and his supporters from their victims' hatred. Libyan people have been liberated. Human rights in the state have improved since then.

The problem of giving seats in the UNHRC to bad nation states, unfortunately, still happens. Again, on 12 Nov 2013, nations including China, Vietnam, Cuba, Russia and some other states have managed to occupy seats in UNHRC for the 2014 – 2016 term (3). The human rights records of these nations are even far worse than those of Libya, but they took advantage of the UN General Assembly’s principles that no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive 3-year terms and all the seats are distributed on the basis of five geographical region groups: Asia, Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Western Europe plus other groups (4). The success of these bad members was inevitable because it was the General Assembly’s principle that caused the problem itself. While in theory, the resolution establishing the UNHRC states that: ‘members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights’; in practice, the conduct of candidates hasn’t been examined cautiously; their human right violations has been bypassed. The number of candidates in each group was equivalent or less than those of available seats to vote, so the success of all candidates was almost 100%. Moreover, candidates didn’t even care to conceal their mangy bribe of votes amongst the UN members. The consequence was, ironically, the nations with the most human rights abuse record got the highest number of votes. (Vietnam: 184, China: 176 over a total of 193 votes).

But how are those nations deficient in upholding human rights standards while they are members of the UNHRC? The concept of basic human rights is universal and egalitarian and is clarified in 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), one of the 3 foundation documents of the UNHRC. The duty of the council is to assess the human rights situations of all UN members, to address important human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, Women's rights(5).

The UN General Assembly should have raised concerns on any member failing to abide by this foundation document. It is a contempt of human rights and those members should deserve to be expelled from UNHRC. Take Vietnam for instance. How does the Vietnamese government hold back human rights from its citizens? The most fundamental human right is the right to life, liberty and security of a person as indicated in UDHR, article 3. In contrast, the Vietnamese one-party government has proclaimed itself the unique ruler of the country. To protect its regime, it employed a huge security force of up to 300,000 official guards, plus an estimate of a massive 6.7 million part-time guard or paramilitary in its security network, that is one- sixth of the country’s working population (6) . Hence, it has put up security stations at every ward, every district in the whole country in order to keep an eye on and control everyone’s actions. Moreover, this security force has been given a formidable power: on or off duty, in wearing a uniform or not, the security guards have been allowed to ransack every household at any time, day or night without an official written order. They might arrest and put in custody anyone they want to, with no need to show a legal warranty. When travelling from place to place and staying out overnight from residential locations, all the citizens aged 14 years and over must come to these security stations and seek permission papers from them. They have to report their departure, their arrival, the time, the reason for travelling, what they will do and whom they will live or work with. Freedom of speech and free expression has never been implemented in Vietnam. If someone publicly criticises the regime or their rulers, he/she will be accused of ‘anti-state’ behavior and will ends up behind bars. In the recent years, some journalists have been jailed for demanding free press (7), others for writing songs, poems, essays about human rights or promoting varieties of freedom: freedom of assembly and association, freedom of religion… (8). In Vietnam, there is a system of state-controlled media. All the means of media are in the hands of the government, including TV channels, radio stations, newspapers, magazines and even all other publications. There is not a single private media system in Vietnam, or more accurately, private media is outlawed. Even when people have to use the Internet as the last medium, the Vietnam government still tries to control it. As recently as 2013, they arrested 38 bloggers who tried to express their own view of human rights on their websites so far (9). The International Federation of Human Rights put Vietnam on the list of the second worst enemy of the Internet (behind only China).

These are only some very small parts of thousands of human rights violations that are occurring daily in Vietnam. Ones suffer a lot from the ill-treatment of this totalitarian regime. The problem is that people know nothing or very little about human rights and the rulers, by all means, don’t want their citizens to know their rights. Now, with a position in UNHRC after the successful campaign last month and with its duty beginning from 2014, the totalitarian regime happily took this matter with pride, denied any accusation of its human rights violations with the argument that all the above criticism was wrong or misleading. While the Vietnamese government thought that it could easily blindfold the world from seeing its wrong doing, the Vietnamese people were disappointed with the result and just wondered which side this UN organization really served: the governed or the governors? (10).

Nonetheless, everything is not all bad. People in Vietnam, like the Libyan people, are trying to make their own way regarding human rights, although with more peaceful and delicate methods. In particular, young people are using the Internet to communicate, gather needed documents to study and discuss about human rights. They invite everybody, especially young women, to go out on the street to talk about human rights, to support and promote them, to distribute leaflets in public to popularize human rights and to demand the regime to release their companions who have been arrested without charges, or with ridiculous charges. They argue with Vietnamese authorities that, Vietnam, in the name of a member of the UNHRC, must respect all human rights according to international laws. These young people are doing this work in many cities around Vietnam to congratulate the nation as a new member of the human right council and to welcome the International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2013. They’ve also sent a message to 184 UN members who voted for Vietnam to have that seat of the UNHRC: ‘You have voted for Vietnam. So it’s part of your responsibility to all Vietnamese people. Now, you are in debt to our people to assure that the Vietnamese government, as a member of a human rights council, shall obey all international human rights and immediately stop all acts of human rights violations’ (11).




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