Vietnam defends itself on torture

Lieutnant-General Le Quy Vuong presented Vietnam’s first report on torture and other abusive practices.

Vietnam has defended its record on the use of torture and other degrading punishments in the face of growing concern about the country’s human rights record.

Vietnam’s actions are currently under review by the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva, which has heard evidence of regular deaths in police custody and systematic abuse of political activists.

The deputy minister of public security, Lieutenant-General Le Quy Vuong, told the panel that progress had been made since Vietnam signed up to the UN Convention Against Torture four years ago.

He delivered Vietnam’s first report to the committee, in line with the periodic monitoring of compliance required by the convention.

He said that shortcomings and challenges had been identified in the report and plans were in place for more effective implementation.

Lt-Gen Vuong maintained that steps had been taken to improve the legal framework and to punish those found responsible for torture and other abuses of those in police custody.

Critics say that despite some fluctuations the number of suspects who die after interrogation has remained more or less consistent, and that the police continue to attribute most such deaths to suicide.

Meanwhile, some fifty bloggers and other political campaigners have been imprisoned this year, with many complaining of poor treatment and sometimes physical assault after their detention.

Human rights groups say that the police regularly employ plainclothes proxies to carry out violent attacks on government critics, with some activities sustaining severe injuries as a result.

Vietnam signed up to the convention on torture at a time when it was seeking to convince the United States and other western partners that it was serious about improving its human rights record and becoming more tolerant of internal dissent.

In the years since, Vietnam has reverted to a more explicitly authoritarian system, with a sustained campaign of harassment and arrest targeted at civil society activists and independent bloggers.

Lt-General Vuong argued that Vietnam still takes its obligations seriously and police are now subject to closer monitoring.

The Committee Against Torture is due to announce the results of its review early next month.