Australia and Vietnam held their 14th Annual Human Rights Dialogue in Canberra on 10 August 2017. The two sides engaged in robust and constructive dialogue discussing a wide range of human rights issues.
Australia reiterated its recognition of Vietnam’s significant progress and achievements made in enhancing social and economic rights over recent decades, and the increasing recognition of the rights of LGBTI persons in Vietnam. Australia commended Vietnam on the passage of a law on religion in late 2016, which improves the regulatory environment for religious practice in Vietnam.
Australia expressed concern regarding ongoing restrictions on civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, association and assembly. It reiterated its serious concerns about the harassment, arrest and detention of human rights activists. Australia raised particular cases of concern.
Australia recognised the challenges and high levels of disadvantage faced by Indigenous Australians, including the high proportion of Indigenous Australians in custody. Australia outlined the policies and programs in place to address the intergenerational social disadvantage that Indigenous Australians face.
The two sides discussed continuing legal reforms in Vietnam, including the Criminal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Law on Associations. Australia again welcomed the imminent removal of the death penalty for seven crimes and encouraged Vietnam to move towards the abolition of the death penalty.
Vietnam offered its advice as a former member of the Human Rights Council to Australia if successful in its candidacy for membership. Australia urged Vietnam to continue engaging with civil society in the lead-up to its next Universal Periodic Review in 2018. Australia encouraged Vietnam to issue a standing invitation to all Special Rapporteurs and encouraged Vietnam to accept another visit by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief. Australia urged Vietnam to establish an independent National Human Rights Institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.
In the margins of the Dialogue, the Vietnamese delegation met a range of Australian organisations to learn about Australia’s own human rights challenges, and the valuable contributions a vibrant civil society can make in identifying and addressing these issues. These included local government and non-government organisations that support vulnerable groups, including LGBTI persons, women who have experienced domestic violence and homelessness, and Indigenous Australians.
The head of the Australian delegation, Dr Lachlan Strahan, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Policy Division at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, led NGO consultations before the dialogue and will debrief these organisations in the coming weeks.
The Australian delegation also included the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Hon Kevin Andrews MP and Dr Anne Aly MP; Australia’s Special Envoy for Human Rights, Hon Philip Ruddock MP; the Australian Human Rights Commission; and Australian government agencies. The Vietnamese delegation was led by Mr Vu Anh Quang, Director General of the International Organizations Department of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam and included officials from a range of other Vietnamese government ministries and agencies.
The 15th round of the Human Rights Dialogue will be held in 2018 in Hanoi.