EU urged to raise human rights with Vietnam

Human Rights Watch is calling upon the European Union president to make rights a priority during his visit to Vietnam.

Herman Van Rompuy is in Vietnam this week ahead of a major Asia-Europe economic summit in Laos next week.

HRW is urging Mr Van Rompuy to publicly press Vietnam to release all political prisoners, respect freedom of religion, and abolish forced labour in drug detention centres.

The rights group says that religious activists in the country are being harassed, intimidated and imprisoned.

Asia News reported recently that Catholics in Hanoi have been fighting attempts by city officials to illegally seize church property.

HRW says that people identified as drug users in Vietnam are held without due process in centres where they may be subjected to forced labour, and physical and sexual abuse.

“While Europe sees Vietnam as an important trading partner, President Van Rompuy should not relegate human rights to a secondary issue,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Right Watch.

“Vietnam regularly imprisons its citizens for asking for democracy and the same freedoms that Europeans take for granted.

“Van Rompuy has an ethical obligation to make clear to the Vietnamese government that it cannot operate a repressive dictatorship without consequences for its relations with the EU.”