Vietnam Communists demand end to Vietnamese Communism

vietnam dissentSeveral dozen senior members of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party have written a letter openly denouncing the country’s leadership, accusing them of taking the “wrong path”, and calling fora “decisive shift” from dictatorship to democracy, the UK’s Channel 4 reports:

The authors of the open letter want the Vietnamese government to “come clean” about a secret summit in which Vietnam is alleged to have secretly handed over territory to China. It is difficult to know where the open letter will lead but Hoi Trinh of advocacy group Voice, says it will encourage a small, growing and increasingly emboldened band of pro-democracy activists in Vietnam. “What is surprising about the letter is that it was made public,” says Trinh. “It’s not the way things are done in Vietnam. You can criticise the government within your family. You can even criticise them in the coffee shop. You don’t do it publicly – but these people did exactly that.”

“The path that the leadership has been imposing on the country is wrong and is taking us down a blind alley,” Nguyen Khac  Main, a veteran party member and one of the letter’s signatories, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service:

The recent deployment of a Chinese oil rig in waters off Vietnam’s coast, together with the sinking by China of a Vietnamese fishing boat, have lowered relations between Vietnam and China to their worst level since the two communist nations fought a brief border war in 1979.

Violent anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam followed the deployment of the rig, which was later withdrawn, and left at least four people dead and the destruction of factories believed to be operated by Chinese companies, though many were Taiwanese-owned.

Also speaking to RFA, former director of the Vietnam Institute of Sociology Tuong Lai said,  “In the name of socialism and in the name of  having a similar communist leadership, China manipulates the Vietnamese Communist Party and the leaders of Vietnam, making them dependent on China.”

“And it is this dependence that has increasingly damaged the party’s reputation and caused such severe distrust among party members and the people.”

Vietnam_cu-huyA string of Vietnamese activists have had their Facebook accounts suspended, and claim to have been targeted by an ‘online army’ sponsored by the government, the BBC reports:

When David Nguyen – a human rights lawyer – tried to log in to the site, he found his account had been blocked. He was faced with a message from Facebook which said he was suspected of posting fraudulent personal information. He wasn’t the only one. At least 100 users – mostly pro-democracy and human rights campaigners – have faced similar treatment, according to Viet Tan, a political group who oppose the communist government.

Although the blocks have been implemented by Facebook, it isn’t the site itself that’s to blame. Nguyen says he, and many like him, have been targeted by a rival team of site members – or “opinion shapers” – organised and paid by the government.

When human rights in Vietnam are discussed in the international community it is invariably the nation’s track record on freedom of speech, or lack thereof, which takes precedence, notes an observer:

The communist nation is regularly excoriated for its human rights track record, by which critics usually mean the locking up of bloggers, but the issues that so concern many of those same bloggers – corruption, police brutality, and workers’ rights, among others – are often all but absent from the majority of discussions about human rights, at least publicly.

Azerbaijani rights defender charged with high treason

AZERBAIJAN LEYLA YUNISAzerbaijani human rights defender Leyla Yunus has been charged with “high treason, tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, forged documentation and fraud, reports Meydan TV. She has also been given three months of pre-trial detention, according to Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova.

Her husband Arif Yunus is reportedly facing two charges; state betrayal and fraud, Index on Censorship reports.

Yunus has been shouting truth to power in Azerbaijan for years, earning a reputation as the conscience of her country, RFE/RL’s Robert Coalson and Ilkin Mammadov report:

The authorities seem bent on playing hard ball in this case. A lengthy statement by the prosecutor’s office tries to connect the Yunuses with Armenia’s secret services and accuses them of providing detailed military information relating to the simmering dispute over Azerbaijan’s breakaway ethnic-Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The charges filed against the Yunus’s are outrageous,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD) and Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), co-chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. “Both Leyla and Arif are long-time supporters of people-to-people contact with Armenia, and the charge of espionage against them is absurd. We urge the Government of Azerbaijan to drop the charges and to stop the coordinated campaign aimed at the opposition, civil society and journalists in Azerbaijan who are peacefully exercising their right to freedom of speech and freedom of association.”

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention:

Please write to the authorities in Azerbaijan, urging them to:

i.Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Leyla Yunus, Mr. Arif Yunusov as well as of all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan; 

ii.      Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Leyla Yunus from pre-trial detention and Mr. Yunusov from house arrest, since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning their human rights activities;

iii.     Remove all travel restrictions placed upon Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov;

iv.     Put an end to any kind of harassment – including at the judicial and investigatory levels – against Ms. Leyla Yunus, Mr. Arif Yunusov, her relatives and more generally against all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;

v.       Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:

-Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;

-Article 5, which underscores the right of every individual to form, join, and participate in non-governmental organizations; and

-Article 12.2, which provides that the State shall “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights”;

vi.     Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Azerbaijan.

Addresses:

Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 19 Istiqlaliyyat St., Baku AZ1066, Azerbaijan, Fax: (+994) 12 492 06 25, (+994) 412 92 28 68, E-mail: office@pa.gov.az, office@apparat.gov.az

Mr. Zakir Garalov, Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Prosecutor’s Office, 7 Nigar Rafibeyli St., Baku, Azerbaijan, Fax: (+994) 12 492 06 82, (+994) 12 492 26 63, E-mail: z.qaralov@prosecutor.gov.az, info@prosecutor.gov.az

Mr. Eldar Mahmudov, Minister of National Security, Ministry of National Security of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Parliament Avenue 14, Baku AZ1006, Azerbaijan, Fax: (+994) 12 493-76-22, E-mail: cpr@mns.gov.az

Mr. Ramil Usubov, Minister of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Azerbaijani Republic, Fax: (+994) 12 492 45 90

Mr. Elmar MammadyarovMinister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, E-mail: katiblik@mfa.gov.az

Mr. Fikrat F. Mammadov, Minister of Justice in Azerbaijan, Inshaatchilar Prospekti, 1 Baku, Azerbaijan, e-mail: contact@justice.gov.az; Fax (+994) 12 430 09 81

H.E. Mr. Murad N. Najafbayli, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the United Nations in Geneva, Route des Fayards 237, CH-1290 Versoix, Switzerland, Fax: (+41) 22 901 18 44, E-mail: geneva@mission.mfa.gov.az

Embassy of Azerbaijan in Brussels, Avenue Moliere 464, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: (+32) 2 345 91 85

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Azerbaijan in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Azerbaijan.

Egypt leaves democracy advocate in legal limbo

egypt ngo trial fhIn Egypt last month, three journalists were found guilty of doing their jobs and given seven- and 10-year jail terms. Apparently, little has changed, notes a prominent democracy assistance official.

A little more than a year earlier, I and 42 other employees of international human rights groups were similarly convicted at a Cairo trial that the U.S. and European governments have condemned as politically motivated,” says Sam LaHood, the director for the International Republican Institute in Egypt from 2010 to 2012 and currently a program officer with the organization.

“I was sentenced to five years in prison with hard labor after being found guilty in absentia of a trumped-up felony,” he writes for the Washington Post:  

In my case, appointees held over from the regime of Hosni Mubarak used repressive laws to target our groups for providing democracy assistance, manipulating the bureaucratic machinery for their own ends. Many more of these officials, who constitute Egypt’s entrenched security apparatus and bureaucracy, or “deep state,” have since returned to power after being out in the cold during the truncated presidential term of Mohamed Morsi. This deep state, led by individuals at the Ministry of Interior, state security and other large bureaucratic entities, is intent on exerting control over civil society, politics and the media through intimidation and repression.

RTWT

Pakistan: Resisting Extremism through Media

In some schools of Islam, the artistic portrayal of people and animals is often perceived as idolatrous, or at the very least offensive or sacrilegious. Following the 2001 destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban and the 2005 Danish Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoon controversy, Pakistan is experiencing a new wave of restrictions on the production of visual arts.

This trend is part of a broader agenda by intolerant and extremist elements in Pakistan to limit freedom of expression and curtail cultural activities, including dance, music, and theater, that they believe offend Islam. Moreover, recent attacks on journalists by extremists not only serve to silence moderate voices but reinforce and propel a conservative ideology. The challenge now is to reclaim the power of images and to assert cartoons as a medium through which artists can convey messages across cultural and linguistic divides.

Resisting Extremism through Media: Claiming a Space for Political Cartoons in Pakistan : watch the discussion on YouTube, above, featuring:

Sabir Nazar (@sabirnazar), Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, National Endowment for Democracy;

with comments by

Brian Joseph (@NEDemocracy), National Endowment for Democracy;

moderated by

Mark Nelson (@CIMA_Media), Center for International Media Assistance.

Payá family launches new plebiscite initiative in Cuba

 

cubaPayá_&_Cepero_II_Aniversario_SMALL_02On the second anniversary of the death of Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá, his daughter, Rosa María Payá, has announced that the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) he founded is preparing a campaign to demand a plebiscite on the island’s future, the Miami Herald reports:

Rosa Maria Payá said that the plebiscite, based on her father’s Varela Project, would include “one single question: Do you want to participate in free and multi-party elections?”

The Varela Project gathered more than 10,000 signatures on a petition seeking a new electoral law and demanding the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association, among other measures. The signatures were rejected by the legislative National Assembly in 2002 but later that year Payá won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Conscience, the most prestigious prize awarded by the European Union.

His daughter told El Nuevo Herald on Tuesday that since the Varela Project remains alive, “it is not necessary to collect more signatures. More than double the number required already have been handed in, even though the National Assembly has not responded to the demand.

“But the Varela Project is a citizens’ effort. Our intention with this (new) campaign is to mobilize citizens to demand their rights,” she added. “There can be no transition in Cuba unless first there’s a recognition of civil rights, of freedom of expression, of freedom of association to carry out the change we want.”

HT: Babablu blog.