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1. Throughout their history, the humankind have constantly striven for the liberation of the human being and for an equal, democratic and civilized society. For a long period of time, the Vietnamese nation was under foreign domination and had to make enormous sacrifices to gain national independence and freedom. With unyielding and persistent struggles against foreign aggression over centuries, the Vietnamese nation has asserted that the most sacred and fundamental human rights are the rights to live in independence, freedom, to determine one’s own destiny.  This is also the core principle of national self-determination enshrined in the United Nation Charter and Article 1 of the two most fundamental covenants of the United Nations on human rights, namely the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

President Ho Chi Minh, the founder of a new Vietnam, during his life, always cherished an aspiration: “I have only a desire, an utmost desire that our country is fully independent, our people are fully free, our compatriots all have enough food and access to education”. His wish also reflects the aspiration of the Vietnamese people for the essential values of human rights and has stood as guiding principles for the State of Vietnam. The Vietnamese people, regardless of age, sex, ethnicity and religion, are united to overcome all challenges, hardships and sacrifices to gain and protect those fundamental rights.

The State of Vietnam has always viewed the people as both the goal and driving force of the cause of national construction. The people therefore always lie in the center of economic and social policies and the promotion and protection of human rights are an essential factor for sustainable development and successful implementation of national industrialization and modernization. It is Vietnam’s ultimate goal to build “a strong country with wealthy people in an equal, democratic and civilized society” for the benefit of the people. 

Being a victim of many aggressive wars–the most serious violation of human rights, Vietnam, more than anyone else, understands the universality of human rights which reflect the common aspiration of humankind as enshrined in the United Nations Charter and at the same time, their peculiarity in each society and community. The Vietnamese Government is of the view that in a world of increasing diversity, approaches to human rights issues should harmoniously combine common standards and principles of international law with specific historical, political, economic and social conditions as well as cultural and religious values, beliefs and customs of each country and region. No country has the right to impose any political, economic or cultural model on others. Vietnam is also of the view that there should be a comprehensive approach to human rights, comprised of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and all categories of rights should be treated on the same footing. At the same time, the rights and freedom of each individual can only be protected and promoted on the basis of respect for the common rights and interests of the nation and community, and one’s rights must be accompanied by his/her obligations to the society. It would be a partial approach that fails to provide a entire panorama of human rights or prioritizes only civil and political rights as well as individual freedoms without paying due attention to the rights to development and the economic, social and cultural rights of the community.

The Vietnamese Government holds the view that protecting and promoting human rights are primarily the responsibility of the State. Every state is responsible for formulating a domestic legal system in accordance with the fundamental principles of international law, particularly the United Nations Charter, taking into account its specific conditions so that human rights of its people would be best ensured. Given differences in political regime, development level, cultural value and historical background, approaches to human rights might vary from country to country. Cooperation and dialogue between countries for promotion and protection of human rights are an inevitable need. Vietnam supports international cooperation in human rights based on equal and constructive dialogue, mutual respect and understanding, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and for the common benefit of better promoting and protecting human rights. Vietnam’s position is that no country has the right to use human rights as a means or pretext to interfere into another country’s internal affairs, create confrontation and political pressures, even use force or impose conditionalities in economic and trade relations with others.

In an interdependent world, human rights can only be respected and protected in an environment of peace, security, equity and sustainable development, wherein human values are upheld and protected. The fight for human rights should go hand in hand with measures to prevent wars, conflicts, terrorism, poverty, famine, epidemic diseases, trans-national crimes and etc which continue to threaten peace, security, independence and prosperity of all nations, hindering the promotion and protection of human rights the world over.

Vietnam’s above-mentioned standpoints are in conformity with the principles, main contents and progressive trends of international laws in general and of human rights in particular.

2. In pursuit of the policy to promote human rights, the State of Vietnam has been building and improving the legal system to ensure that human rights are fully respected and exercised. Human rights, once stipulated in the Constitution and legislation, will become the people’s will to be protected by law and complied with by the entire society.

Right after Vietnam regained independence in 1945, human rights and citizen rights were proclaimed in the 1946 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and henceforth reinforced in the 1959, 1980 and 1992 constitutions (further amended in 2001). For instance, the 1992 Constitution, the highest legal document of the State of Vietnam, in solemn, clear and comprehensive terms, recognizes human rights in Articles 2 and 50 and the contents of these rights are reflected throughout the Constitution. Particularly, Chapter 5 of the Constitution provides for the citizen’s basic rights and obligations.

Human rights as stipulated in the Constitution have continuously been concretized in Vietnamese legal normative documents. Since 1986 alone, Vietnam has promulgated 13,000 legal documents of all sorts, including over 40 codes and laws, over 120 ordinances, approximately 850 documents of the Government and over 3,000 regulatory documents by Ministries and agencies. In 2004 alone, the National Assembly debated and approved 13 laws and 8 ordinances in different fields.

Thus, the Constitution and laws of Vietnam have fully reflected all the fundamental and universal human rights pronounced in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in other UN conventions on human rights. These clearly show tremendous progress and efforts made by the State of Vietnam in respecting and protecting human rights given the context that Vietnam is still in the process of building a law-governed state with enormous socio-economic difficulties./.

(July 2007)

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