Parliamentary question by Marco Pannella (NI) to the Commission and answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

Parliamentary questions
by Marco Pannella (NI) to the Commission
(11 September 2002)

Subject: Failure to denounce the Cooperation Agreement with Vietnam on the grounds of infringement of Article 2 resulting from serious, repeated and countless violations of human, political and religious rights

The Commission concluded a Cooperation Agreement with Vietnam. Known eye-witnesses state that corpses and human remains have been found along the border between Vietnam and Cambodia. They belong to Montagnards who presumably tried to flee to Cambodia in order to escape persecution by the Vietnamese Government. Many thousands of Montagnards have taken refuge in the jungle to escape persecution but have been unable to reach refugee camps in Cambodia after the Cambodian Government closed the border.

Between June and the end of August this year at least 29 Montagnards were arrested (their names, village of origin and time and date of arrest are known) and often tortured by Vietnamese police because they had taken part in peaceful demonstrations in February 2001.

On 25 August this year:

- two Montagnards (whose names and village of origin are known) were tortured by the special Vietnamese police forces (Conga-An) and then escaped into the jungle;

- a Vietnamese meat seller poisoned 42 Montagnards (whose names and village of origin are known); this is evidence of a form of terrorisation practised by the Communist government of Vietnam against ethnic minorities, whereby the civilian population is encouraged to take action against the minorities in return for acquiring ownership of their ancestral lands.

Can the Commission say whether:

- it knows about the events referred to and, if not, whether it intends to obtain testimonies, whether it can provide the witnesses with guarantees, and if so, what kind;

- in addition to the facts outlined above, it is aware of violations of fundamental rights by Vietnamese institutions and public bodies committed against the Montagnard population who live in the Central Highlands and are both practising Christians and political militants;

- it does not consider that the serious, repeated and countless violations of human, political and religious rights in Vietnam constitute a grave infringement of Article 2 of the Cooperation Agreement between the Commission and Vietnam, and what body is monitoring respect for the afore-mentioned article and what its parameters are?

Answer given by Mr Patten
on behalf of the Commission
(15 October 2002)

The EC-Vietnam Co-operation Agreement, which was signed in 1995, states in its first Article that respect for human rights and democratic principles is the basis of its co-operation. Questions related to the respect for and the promotion of human rights are addressed in meetings of the EC-Vietnam Joint Commission established under the Co-operation Agreement. The Commission, together with the Member States represented in Vietnam, therefore monitors closely human rights developments in Vietnam as part of the policy of the Union to encourage and support the continued commitment of the Government of Vietnam to progress in the field of human rights. The Commission also participates with the Member States in regular dialogue with and in all démarches to the Government of Vietnam on human rights issues. Most recently, the Member of the Commission responsible for External Relations raised Commission’s concerns with the Vietnamese Prime Minister, Mr Phan Van Khai, during his visit to Brussels on 26 September 2002.

In relation to the particular events mentioned in the question – findings of human remains along the Cambodia-Vietnam border, torture of 29 Montagnards arrested between June and end-August 2002, torture of two Montagnards on 25 August 2002 and their subsequent escape from custody, poisoning of 42 Montagnards by a Vietnamese meat seller – enquiries with Union and other partners in both Vietnam and Cambodia, including those who have visited the regions concerned, have not yielded any reliable confirmation. Also, while there are some reports of potential asylum seekers on the Vietnamese side of the border, there are no reports of any persons being prevented from crossing the border. In relation to earlier developments in the Central Highlands, the Commission would refer the Honourable Member to its answer to written question P-1502/02 by Mr. Gianfranco Dell’Alba.

The Commission, together with the Member States represented in Vietnam, will continue to monitor closely human rights developments in the country and to take appropriate follow-up action.