A proposed law aimed at stopping human rights abuses in Vietnam—“The Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2012”—was approved by the House human rights panel that oversees international human rights at a hearing Wednesday chaired by U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04).
“The Vietnamese government continues to be an egregious violator of a broad array of human rights,” said Smith, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who chairs its Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights. “The testimony we heard confirmed that religious, political and ethnic persecution continue and in many cases is increasing, and that Vietnamese officials continue to lay out the welcome mat for forced labor and sex traffickers. It is imperative that the United States Government send an unequivocal message to the Vietnamese regime that it must end its human rights abuses against its own citizens. The purpose of H.R. 1410 is to promote the development of freedom and democracy in Vietnam. It seeks to do so primarily by stipulating that the United States can increase its assistance to Vietnam above FY2011 levels only when the President is able to certify that the Government of Vietnam has made substantial progress in establishing a democracy and promoting human rights.” Click here to read Smith’s remarks.
The panel unanimously approved H.R. 1410, a bill to promote freedom and democracy in Vietnam. In 2011, Smith introduced the legislation which would set restrictions on U.S. aid while allowing humanitarian assistance to continue. H.R. 1410 prohibits U.S. non-humanitarian assistance to the Government of Vietnam over current levels unless increased U.S. dollars for programs including economic, environmental and military initiatives are commensurate with U.S. funding for human rights and democracy programs in Vietnam. It also prohibits non-humanitarian aid unless the President certifies to Congress that Vietnam has dramatically improved its human rights record, specifically including the release of all political and religious prisoners, and protects the right to freedom of assembly, religious expression and association. Human rights activists and victims of ongoing abuses at the hands of the Vietnamese Government testified before Smith’s same human rights panel Jan. 24. Testifying before the subcommittee were Anh “Joseph” Cao, former Member of the U.S. Congress; Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, Ph.D., Executive Director, Boat People SOS; John Sifton, Advocacy Director for Asia, Human Rights Watch, and other witnesses.
Also passed was a resolution about the on-going drought in the Horn of Africa.
The Subcommittee approved in a voice vote a non-binding resolution aimed at calling attention to the 13.3 million people in the Horn of Africa who are in need of emergency assistance to survive the worst drought in 60 years. H.Res. 361, outlines existing efforts providing humanitarian relief to help victims of drought and avert famine in the Horn of Africa, particularly Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya. The resolution calls on other nations and international and local nongovernmental organizations to continue aid and development activities in the region to help the situation.