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NGOs urge EU to postpone consent to EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement over poor human rights commitments

Author: Various NGOs, Published on: 4 November 2019

"Joint NGO Letter on EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement", 4 Nov 2019

...We, the undersigned Vietnamese and international civil society organisations, are writing to urge you to ensure that the European Parliament postpones its consent to the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and Investment Protection Agreement (IPA) until certain human rights benchmarks are met by the Vietnamese government.

...[I]n recent years, the Vietnamese government has intensified its crackdown on human rights defenders, members of civil society, religious groups and individuals who express opinions deemed critical of the government or otherwise disfavoured. The rights to free expression, opinion, association and assembly remain strictly curtailed and the judiciary is under tight state control, as are the press, civil society, and religious groups...

...[W]e regret that negotiations for the EVFTA and the IPA did not lead to more tangible human rights commitments from the Vietnamese authorities than the meagre ones included in the EVFTA’s sustainable development chapter, and that even for those there is no binding timeline nor penalties foreseen in case of failure to comply... [W]e are concerned about the monitoring of the implementation of those agreements, which the EVFTA’s text assigns to independent civil society from both sides, overlooking the fact that there is hardly any independent civil society in Vietnam... Finally, we remain deeply concerned about Vietnam’s reluctance to revise its penal code, whose provisions criminalising peaceful criticism of the government render de facto impossible the full enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the International Labour Organisation’s Conventions to which Vietnam is or has pledged to become a party...

For all these reasons, the ongoing procedure at the European Parliament...represents the last, powerful opportunity to leverage these deals to secure concrete human rights improvements in Vietnam...

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