Thursday, January 14, 2021, 13:56 (GMT+7)
Measures to stimulate human rights education within the Military nowadays

According to the Article 65 of the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (2013), in addition to its main missions, the Military is also assigned to perform international duties. To do so, cadres and soldiers of the Military must grasp our State’s law and have good knowledge of international law, including legal documents on human rights. Therefore, seeking measures to encourage human rights education within the Military is very necessary nowadays.

1. Human rights education - concept and cognition 

According to the most common definition, human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture and are protected by international law. The Article 2 of United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training (2011) states that “human rights education and training comprises all educational, training, information, awareness-raising and learning activities aimed at promoting universal respect for and observance of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and thus contributing, inter alia, to the prevention of human rights violations and abuses by providing persons with knowledge, skills and understanding and developing their attitudes and behaviours, to empower them to contribute to the building and promotion of a universal culture of human rights.” The Resolution 59/113A, dated December 10th, 1994 adopted by the United Nations General Assembly declared the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004) and urged governmental educational agencies to establish and implement programmes of human rights education. Between 2005 and 2019, three human rights education programmes continued to be supplemented.

In Vietnam, before 1986, most of the researches into human rights and human rights education were not accepted. In 1986, our Party initiated the national renewal and advocated that human would be the centre of all socio-economic development policies. In 1991, in the Platform on national construction in the transitional period towards socialism, our Party first mentioned human rights, adding that the State would promulgate laws on rights of citizens and human rights. Under the Party’s guidelines, the Constitution of 1992 confirmed the definition of human rights at the Article 50. Since 1992, our Party and State have issued many documents on human rights, including the Prime Minister’s Decision 1039/QĐ-TTg, dated September 5th, 2017 on approving the Project to integrate human rights education into the national education system’s official curricula. According to the Decision, by 2025, all schools within the national education system will have provided human rights education for their students. At present, the work of human rights education has been carried out from primary schools to colleges. Moreover, human rights education has been included in postgraduate courses at the Vietnam National University, Hanoi, the Academy of Social Sciences, and the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics. As for forms of unofficial education, human rights education has been provided through refresher courses, conferences, and extracurricular activities.

2. Human rights education within the Military nowadays

On September 25th, 2018, the General Department of Politics of the Vietnam People’s Army promulgated the Decisions 1650/QĐ-CT and 1651/QĐ-CT on the programme of social science and humanity subjects for battalion-level cadets with Bachelor’s degree within the Military. The United Nations Convention against Torture was in the Decision 1650 while the specialised topic of International Law was included in the Decision 1651.

On December 11th, 2018, Director of the General Department of Politics signed the Decision 2159/QĐ-CT on the Programme to train specialised cadres and employees at vocational training colleges, with 2 topics relating to human rights education, namely Human Rights and United Nations Convention against Torture. In 2018 and 2019, all units across the Military provided legal education courses for their cadres and soldiers, which included Human Rights during Criminal Procedure and Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. 

Although human rights education has been integrated into legal education by military units, there have been weaknesses in this work. More specifically, there has been a lack of connection and uniformity under the “rights-based education” - the most general approach of the international community today. The amount of knowledge of human rights education within the training programmes by a large number of officer colleges has yet to be sufficient or in line with the Military’s new task requirements. Our Party and State’s viewpoints on human rights education have yet to be introduced; therefore, learners could hardly identify and criticise wrong arguments to protect human rights in Vietnam. Besides, there has not been a detailed programme of human rights education within officer colleges. Educational managers, instructors, learners, and soldiers have yet to be equipped with basic knowledge of human rights education. Meanwhile, there has been a dearth of documents on human rights education at educational facilities, negatively impacting on the quality and effectiveness of human rights education within the Military.

3. Measures to encourage human rights education within the Military nowadays

To make contributions to successfully fulfilling the Military’s international missions in the upcoming time and overcome those above-mentioned weaknesses, it is necessary to synchronously, opportunely adopt several solutions as follows.

First, render all cadres and soldiers fully aware of the importance of human rights education to the Military’s international integration nowadays. Human rights education has been an important international issue since the World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993. This task is also mentioned in the Fifth Oath of soldiers of Vietnam People’s Army: “Heighten the spirit of socialist collective mastery,… successfully fulfil international duties. Observe and encourage the people to implement all guidelines of the Party and the State’s law and policy.”

Well carrying the work of human rights education will help our cadres and soldiers to humanely treat prisoners of war. The nature of wars is the use of force from parties in order to weaken and destroy one another’s military power. In any circumstance, there is no human relationship in wars. During wars, individuals accidentally become enemies of one another. The immediate goal of wars is to annihilate enemies; therefore, soldiers’ killing of their opponents during wars is legal. However, once enemies lay down their weapons and surrender, they become civilians. Thus, killing in this case is illegal.

Second, mobilised resources and materials for human rights education within the Military. Law instructors and reporters play a role of utmost importance to today’s human rights education. Hence, enhancing the personnel work and ensuring materials for human rights education represent a matter of urgency. In the upcoming years, it is essential (1) to continue building a contingent of law instructors and reports both qualitatively and quantitatively, (2) to maintain the operation of the Councils for Coordination in Legal Dissemination and Education, (3) foster cooperation in human rights education between specialised offices and organisations, particularly Trade Unions and Women’s Unions at all levels within the Military.

In addition to the above-mentioned resources, it is essential to invest more in official textbooks and reference books for units. although we could find numerous pieces of information about human rights on social networks thanks to the robust development of technology, it is vital to provide official documents in order to ensure our Party’s guidelines and allow cadres and soldiers to identify, prevent and fight against evil information about human rights. Thus, due regard should be paid to providing sufficient materials and official documents for units across the Military to conduct this work.

Third, renew, standardise, modernise the contents, programmes, forms, and methods of human rights education. Reality has proved that without uniformed, sufficient contents and programmes, forms and methods of education would hardly achieve uniformity or effectiveness. Hence, it is important to apply technology to standardising the contents, forms, methods, and means of legal education so as to ensure the quality of human rights education across the Military. Significance should be attached to renewing and diversifying forms of human rights education for cadres and soldiers. Consideration should be given to integrating more contents of human rights and the International Humanitarian Law into the annual programme of legal propagation, dissemination and education for cadres and soldiers.

Fourth, focus on human rights education within military schools. Human rights education within the Military is now provided in two main forms, namely official education within military schools and unofficial education via the model of “Legal Study Day” on a monthly basis at units. The model of “Legal Study Day” has been strictly maintained and proved effective with a reduction in violations of law across the Military, while the law-abiding awareness of cadres and soldiers has been increasingly raised. In the foreseeable future, it is necessary to concentrate on human rights education within military schools as they will train commanders and law instructors and reporters for the entire Military. To improve the quality of education and promote human rights education, military schools, especially commanding and political officer colleges should focus on training a pool of core cadres and instructors and put more effort in the training contents, programmes, facilities and documents.

Human rights education is a basic task. Well implementing those above-mentioned measures will contribute to raising the awareness and responsibility of cadres and soldiers for ensuring human rights during their assigned missions.

Sr. Col. NGUYEN VAN VI, PhD, The Military Engineering Officer College     

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