An open letter to Mr. Zahradil and Mr. Bourgeois

An open letter to Mr. Zahradil and Mr. Bourgeois

17. 1. 2020

The letter posted below was sent to the addressed Members of European Parliament by both post and email on December 19 2019 and since then People in Need has not received any response from them. Human rights violations in Vietnam have shown an escalation already in the very first few weeks of 2020, while the European Parliament Committee on International Trade (INTA) is bound to vote on the European-Vietnam Foreign Trade Agreement on January 20-21 2020. 

Remarkably, the deadly clashes over land in Dong Tam village on January 09 2020 have sparked allegations of grave concern about unlawful police use of force against civilians, use of torture against detained protesters, and restrictions on freedom of speech. No independent and impartial investigation into the case has been made.

People in Need once again calls for members of INTA and the European Parliament to take current human rights situation in Vietnam into serious consideration before casting their votes.


Addressing:

Mr. Jan Zahradil, Vice Chair of International Trade Committee, the European Parliament

Mr. Geert Bourgeois, Member of International Trade Committee, the European Parliament

Copying:

Mr. David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament

Mr. Bernd Lange, Chair of International Trade Committee, the European Parliament

Mr. David McAllister, Chair of Foreign Affairs Committee, the European Parliament

Ms. Maria Arena, Chair of Human Rights Subcommittee, the European Parliament

Mr. Zahradil and Mr. Bourgeois,

It has come to our attention regarding the alleged conflict of interest involving Mr. Zahradil as the former Rapporteur to the EVFTA and the advisor of the Association of Vietnamese in Europe (FOVAE). Information about Mr. Zaharadil’s link with the Vietnamese government through his participation in FOVAE had not been disclosed, in possible violation of the European Parliament‘s Code of Conduct. Such conflict of interest, though pending investigation, poses immediate risks of EVFTA and IPA being approved biasedly by the European Parliament while neglecting the worrying human rights record of Vietnam. While we appreciate Mr. Zahradil’s resignation from the post of EVFTA Rapporteur, skepticism arising from his active lobbying since the very beginning of the EVFTA discussion remains unsettled.

Amidst the allegation is an opportunity for both of you, Mr. Zahradil and Mr. Bourgeois, to restore trust within the community of human rights defenders and civil society organizations towards a trade agreement that has a tremendous potential to improve the protection of fundamental rights in Vietnam. We expect you to spearhead the multilateral efforts to uphold human rights as one of the commitments needed for the trade agreement - as stated in Preambles of the EVFTA and IPA.

Since the first discussion of EVFTA in 2015-2016, the human rights situation in Vietnam has not practically warranted any optimism. Concerns about human rights violations in Vietnam have been repeatedly raised by the European Parliament and its members, including through the European Parliament resolution on Vietnam (2018/2925(RSP)). While the EVFTA is being hotly debated, Vietnam arrested independent journalist Pham Chi Dung on November 21 2019 for his peaceful activism as a blogger and President of the Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam.

It is vital at the very moment that you vocally urge Vietnam to show its commitment to human rights protection before any possible approval of the EVFTA and IPA. This can be done by (1) immediate releases of all political prisoners and detainees in Vietnam, (2) an immediate stop of all acts of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and civil society organizations in Vietnam, and (3) active facilitation of free and independent media, including social media.

This call for actions is extended to all members of the INTA, and all members of the European Parliament.

Sincerely,

Šimon Pánek

Director

People in Need

Author: ČvT