[JURIST] The president of Vietnam [JURIST news archive] has signed a decree abolishing the power of the government to hold suspected national security threats without judicial hearings, a government official told AP Wednesday. Western officials have praised President Nguyen Minh Triet, who signed the decree last week, but some worry that it may change little for political dissenters in Vietnam. Carl Thayer of the Australian Defence Force Academy [official website] told AP that while the measure is a step in the right direction, it does not "necessarily improve the ability of dissidents to operate in Vietnam."
It is believed that roughly 200 people are being held under the measure. Last month, two human rights lawyers were detained [JURIST report] by police after hosting a discussion on the status of human rights law in Vietnam. Pro-democracy groups in Vietnam have increasingly begun to work together, though the Vietnamese government has worked to keep news of the groups out of the press. Last year, the US and Vietnam ended a three-year suspension [JURIST report] on talks regarding human rights and religious freedoms [HRW backgrounder] in the country, which began when the US cancelled the annual Human Rights Dialogue with the Government of Vietnam in 2003 due to a lack of progress on the issues. AP has more.