Vietnam has the third highest rate of executions globally and its citizens live under a regime which affords them some of the lowest levels of political freedoms of any country in the world. Vietnam’s press freedom index is ranked at the 175th out of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
Among the country’s many human rights concerns, the prodigious rate with which it imprisons its citizens for exercising their internationally protected rights is a primary concern. There are at least 250 prisoners of conscience (POCs) in Vietnam today, making it Southeast Asia’s second biggest jailer of men and women for the peaceful exercise of their rights, after the Philippines. For some experts, Vietnam is the biggest jailer of bloggers, independent journalists and human rights defenders in the region.
To call attention to this phenomenon and to call on the Vietnamese government to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience, researchers and advocacy advisers from BPSOS decided to initiate the NOW! Campaign in August 2017.
The NOW! Campaign wants to present itself as a joint initiative involving for now 14 organizations --including organizations that focus specifically on the situation in Vietnam, as well as regional and international organisations that campaign for human rights throughout Southeast Asia and the world.
Through the NOW! Campaign, we want to take every opportunity to advocate for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, including those documented on our list and others who we do not know about.
We have and will continue to:
· Share our findings with the government of Vietnam and seek to engage in constructive dialogue towards achieving the release of these men and women;
· Share our findings with the governments of other countries and lobby them to use their influence with Vietnam to call for the release of all prisoners of conscience (for example in Universal Periodic Review);
· Present our findings in the form of communications to relevant UN Special Procedures and shadow reports to the UN Treaty Bodies, with the hope that they will act accordingly.