Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 19:37 (GMT+7)

Friday, July 28, 2017, 07:45 (GMT+7)
Human rights shall not be above national sovereignty

Amidst vibrant globalization, human rights garner constant international attention. Against this backdrop, hostile forces are stepping up their activities against Vietnam’s Communist Party and political regime. They claim “superiority of human rights over national sovereignty”. Is this the case? Chief among hostile forces’ sabotage is Vietnam’s human rights record. It should be noted that hostile forces have expanded in size, ranging from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) financially and politically abet by foreign countries such as Freedom House (FH), Amnesty International (AI), Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Human Rights Watch (HRW), to anti-communist Members of Parliaments in Europe, Canada, Germany, Australia, reactionary Vietnamese in exile and various opportunists, including owners of illegal websites and administrators of anti-communist Facebook pages. Their main artifice is to employ the label of democracy and human rights issues via Annual Reports with a view to slandering and libeling the Vietnamese State. They keep a remarkably close watch on Vietnam’s situation, especially detentions of offenders of “conducting propaganda against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (under Article 88 of the Penal Code), acting against law enforcers and fomenting social unrest. They “call for” the release of “prisoners of conscience” and “denounce” functional agencies’ illegal detention. They repeat such obsolete labels as “Vietnam’s political regime is dictatorial and totalitarian”, “Vietnam seriously infringes human rights, especially rights to freedom of speech, the press and internet, which are “inherent” to people”. In addition, they deliberately misquote regulations in Chapter II of Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution on “Human rights, fundamental rights and obligations of citizens” in order to excuse their misdeeds. With misquotations of Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution, many a self-proclaimed and “political scientist” and “scholar”, maintains that “Human rights are above national sovereignty” or “Human rights are borderless”, and so on.

On account of those claims, they incite illegal activities, thereby providing a pretext for external interference in Vietnam’s internal affairs with willing accomplice by extremist forces, self-proclaimed dissidents at home and reactionary organizations abroad. A case in point is the advent of the “Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (S.2943)” under the “ “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA)”, resulting from intense political pressure by the US’s far-right forces and imposed on other countries, including Vietnam on the pretext of the latter’s breaches of human rights.

Are their deeds and claims in tune with the international public awareness of human rights? What are their political motives?

First and foremost, what is the international public awareness of human rights? Historically, pundits and scholars tend to rely on the most universal documents as follows: the UK’s 1689 Bill of Rights, the US’s 1776 Declaration of Independence and 1789 Bill of Rights, France’s 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the 1945 UN Charter, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights  and other international covenants on human rights adopted by the UN. Among those are two fundamental covenants, the 1966  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Alongside with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both of them constitute the International Bill of Human Rights.

Accordingly, the concept of human rights is comprised of two fundamentals. As a philosophical and humanistic value, human rights cover the followings: (1) Dignity, construed as material conditions (food and housing, etc.) and spiritual ones (recognized as a human person entitled to statutory rights) (2) Freedom, construed as the right to do anything which is not prohibited by law (3) Equality.  Everyone is entitled to all the rights without distinction of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. (4) Humanity and clemency (5) Social responsibilities. Despite being entitled to all the rights, everyone may be subject to certain restrictions “to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others” (Item 3, Article 18, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) and  “for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals” (Item 3, Article 19, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). As such, there is no question of “superiority of human rights to the national sovereignty”, or “individuals’ immunity from social responsibilities”. In other words, human rights shall be subject to national law while not infringing the rights of society and other individuals without distinction of national or social origin.

As a legal value, human rights cover statutes (by international and national law) on protecting and ensuring dignity, material and spiritual needs and benefits of all persons as well as their duties to other individuals and to the community. As such, this concept clearly points out that every person is the subject of the rights while the State undertakes to respect and protect the rights. It should be noted that according to fundamental documents adopted by the UN, instead of being confined to the individual rights, the concept of human rights covers the rights of States, peoples and collective rights, especially those of vulnerable social groups. Concerning the rights of States and peoples, under Article 1 (Part I, 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”. This stipulates that any State has the right to freedom of political regimes and legal systems without interference from any individual, State, and even the UN. Under the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the World Conference on Human Rights  reaffirms “the denial of the right of self-determination as a violation of human rights”. At the Conference, the concept “particularity” of human rights came into existence for the first time: “The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms”. This lays a philosophical and political foundation for differences in human rights between States and peoples. That is to say that not a single national legal system serves as a yardstick of others’, thereby denouncing the latter as being against “global benchmarks of human rights” and “violation of human rights”.

In terms of collective rights and those of vulnerable social groups, in conformity with the international community’s stance, human rights cover the right to development. Accordingly, everyone has the right to make social contributions and to enjoy the benefits of economic, social, cultural and political progress while human rights and fundamental freedoms shall be fulfilled. Vulnerable social groups are made up of children (under the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), women (under the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)) and persons with disabilities (under the 2007 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)). All of these conventions were already signed and ratified by Vietnam. Theoretically and practically, vulnerable social groups depend on the State laws and policies for the fulfilment of their rights. As such, the claims that “human rights are above national sovereignty” and “human rights are borderless” are either politically motivated or derived from an abyss of ignorance.

Second, what are the political motives for such claims as “human rights are over national sovereignty” and “human rights are borderless”? In fact, they aim (1) to form the psychological, theoretical and legal basis for inciting individuals and organizations (including online “virtual organizations”) to continue their illegal activities to jeopardize national security and public order or to engage in subversive activities, if possible, while slandering the Vietnamese Communist Party’s leadership as dictatorial, totalitarian and riddled with poor human rights records. (2) to incite the Vietnamese expats abroad, especially those committing high treason against or bearing animosity towards the Vietnamese revolution, to undermine our great national unity. This can be epitomized by California State Sen. Janet Nguyen, a Vietnamese American, who discredited our resistance wars against the colonialists and imperialists and called on the US Government to cut back ties to Vietnam for its “poor human rights records”. In her speech at the State Senate session in February, 2017, Janet Nguyen criticized late State Sen. Tom Hayden and his then- wife, actress Jane Fonda, for their role in the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s. The presiding senator had repeatedly interrupted her comments before

telling security to remove her from the floor (a number of online newspapers reported that Nguyen were gently nudged toward the door by several sergeants-at-arms). It goes without saying such claims as “human rights are above national sovereignty” and “human rights are borderless” aim to step by step undermine Vietnam ideologically and politically and its great national unity before culminating in Vietnam’s socio-political instability and the removal of the Vietnamese Communist Party’s leadership as the ultimate motive.

Third, what is our Party and State’s stance on the relationship between national sovereignty and human rights?

In its very first Political Platform in 1930 (which is comprised of the Brief Political Platform and Brief Policy), our Party outlined the path for the Vietnamese revolution, which was to achieve national independence and social liberation simultaneously, bringing human rights and citizens’ rights to all the Vietnamese.

When Vietnam embarked on its Doi Moi period, in July, 1992, the Party Central Committee’s Secretariat (the 7th tenure) issued Directive No. 12-CT/TW, asserting that “human rights are a value shared by humanity. They result from the long-fought struggle by the working class and all peoples around the world against barbarous oppression and ruthless exploitation”, and “human liberation (including the fulfilment of human rights) shall be inextricably linked with national, class and social liberation. Only under the flag of national independence and socialism as a prerequisite can human rights be fulfilled to the fullest”.

Inheriting from its precursors,  the 2011 Political Platform has incorporated democratic values into human rights, rights and obligations of citizens, setting forth the goal for the State  “to build a prosperous life for its people, a strong country and an equitable, democratic and civilized society, to ensure the people’s rights as masters in all spheres and the wellbeing, freedom and happiness of all citizens as well as conditions for their all-round development...to build a law-ruled socialist state of the people, by the people and for the people under the leadership of the Communist Party with friendly and cooperative relations with all countries around the world”. Institutionalizing  the 2011 Political Platform, the 2013 Constitution reserves the whole Chapter II for “Human rights, fundamental rights and obligations of citizens” in conformity with the UN’s fundamental covenants on human rights.
In accordance with the above-mentioned stance, under the Party’s leadership, our State soon signed international covenants on human rights. In 1982, Vietnam signed the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. So far, Vietnam has been a signatory to all international covenants on human rights. As such, it is our Party’s stance that human rights are inextricably linked with the social regime; national independence is a precondition for human rights.
The 12 National Party Congress continues to affirm the “supremacy” of nation interest over other goals. This lays a foundation for Vietnam’s relations with other countries and international organizations, including the UN. Nowadays, Vietnam has established diplomatic relations with over 180 countries and territories, including the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, grounded in respect for the UN Charter, each other’s respective legal and political systems, including human rights.

To conclude, as for our Party, State and democracy, human rights serve as both a goal and driving force for the cause of national construction and protection. To respect and ensure human rights is not only responsibility but also sovereignty of our State. There is no question of “superiority of human rights to national sovereignty” or “borderless human rights” as claimed by hostile forces, those committing high treason against or bearing animosity towards the Vietnamese revolution, and opportunists at home and abroad./.

Dr. Cao Duc Thai

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