August 3, 2011
Vietnamese Court Upholds Conviction of Attorney
A Vietnamese appeals court earlier this week upheld the conviction and seven-year sentence of attorney and scholar Cu Huy Ha Vu for propagandizing against the Vietnamese government. Human Rights Watch has a report and case materials here.
According to the indictment, Vu called for the elimination of the leading role of the Vietnamese Communist Party, the removal of Article 4 of the Constitution (discussed below), and a multi-party, plural political system. Here's a sample of what the government claimed Vu said:
In short, to maintain the leadership of the Vietnamese Communist Party over the country is nothing other than serving the illegal interests of a small group inside the Vietnamese Communist Party, which goes against the interests of the majority of the people, including millions of Communist Party members, and therefore should not be prolonged any further. By the way, I am once again beckoning the leaders of the Vietnamese Communist Party to promptly apply a multi-party system in Vietnam, otherwise, national integration and national conciliation will become national deception, with its foreseeable negative consequences.
Article 4 of the Constitution cements one-party, Communist rule in the country. It reads,
The Communist Party of Vietnam, the vanguard of the Vietnamese working class, the faithful representative of the rights and interests of the working class, the toiling people, and the whole nation, acting upon the Marxist-Leninist doctrine and Ho Chi Minh's thought, is the force leading the State and society.
All Party organisations operate within the framework of the Constitution and the law.
Vietnam, of course, isn't alone in its one-party approach. But it's in dwindling company--just a handful of constitutions today still codify one-party rule (even if more have de facto one-party rule). Here's a sample, from Cuba:
The Communist Party of Cuba, a follower of Marti's ideas and of Marxism-Leninism, and the organized vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the highest leading force of society and of the state, which organizes and guides the common effort toward the goals of the construction of socialism and the progress toward a communist society.
Cuban Constitution, Article 5. And another, from neighbor Laos:
The rights of the multi-ethnic people to be masters of the country are exercised and ensured through the functioning of the political system with the Lao People's Revolutionary Party as its leading nucleus.
Lao Constitution, Article 3.
In addition to the one-party rule provision, Vietnam's Constitution also contains these "rights":
Article 50: In the Socialist Republic of Vietnam human rights in the political, civic, economic, cultural and social fields are respected. They are embodied in the citizen's rights and are determined by the Constitution and the law.
Article 51: The State guarantees the rights of the citizen; the citizen must fulfill his duties to the State and society.
Article 53: The citizen has the right to participate in the administration of the State and management of society, the dicussion of problems of the country and the region; he can send petitions to State organs and vote in referendums organised by the State.
Article 70: The citizen shall enjoy freedom of opinion and speech, freedom of the press, the right to be informed, and the right to assemble, form associations and hold demonstrations in accordance with the provisions of the law.
Article 76: The citizen must show loyalty to his motherland. To betray one's motherland is the most serious crime.
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