Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the National Assembly of Vietnam [official website] to bring the country's constitution in line with international human rights standards in a letter [text] sent Monday to Assembly chairman, Nguyen Sinh Hung. The National Assembly, Vietnam's legislative body, opened a draft constitution to public comment in January, allowing for the possibility of the first amendments to the constitution since 2001. Despite HRW's approval for the Assembly's willingness to open their constitution to public scrutiny, the advocacy group is still wary of state suppression of positions in conflict with those of the Communist Party:
We urge the National Assembly to ensure that the amendment process brings the constitution into conformity with Vietnam’s obligations under international law so that it fully protects the rights and liberties of all people in Vietnam, which will contribute to the country’s development. The government's decision to consult with the general public on proposed amendments to the Constitution is a welcome development, however, this requires that the consultation be meaningful and that individuals are not harassed or punished for expressing their views.HRW indicated support for the repeated references to human rights and disapproval of the removal of protections from unlawful arrests. The group also suggested new amendments guaranteeing an independent judiciary and freedom of expression, among others. The National Assembly is expected to vote [press release] on constitutional amendments by the end of November.
Regarding concerns of the Vietnam government "prohibiting views deemed unwelcome," the letter referenced the imprisonment [JURIST report] of lawyer Le Quoc Quan who was sentenced in October to 30 months in prison for tax evasion, a charge that protesters claim was an attempt to silence a vocal critic of the Communist Party. In August, the US Embassy in Hanoi criticized [JURIST report] a Vietnam Internet law restricting online discussion of current affairs. Twenty-two Vietnamese activists were convicted of subversive activities and sentenced to lengthy prison terms [JURIST report] in February in one of the country's largest subversion trials in years. In the same month, HRW released its annual world report [JURIST report] in which it stated that the Vietnam government had been "systematically suppressing freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and persecuting those who question government policies, expose official corruption, or call for democratic alternatives to one-party rule."