BANGKOK (14 June 2018) – The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia is concerned with the passing of the controversial Cyber Security Law by the National Assembly on Tuesday, which contains a number of provisions that are in contravention with Viet Nam’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The law provides sweeping new powers to the authorities, allowing them to force technology companies and service providers to share computer data, including personal information, to deny services and to censor users’ posts without any judicial review. We are further concerned that this law may be used to further crack down on dissenting voices in Viet Nam and would like to encourage the Government of Viet Nam to provide an enabling environment where freedom of expression, both online and offline, is protected.
While freedom of opinion is an absolute right, freedom of expression can be subjected to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as provided by law and necessary with respect to: the rights or reputation of others; the protection of national security, public order, public health or morals. Furthermore, any interference must be subject to careful and critical assessment of its necessity, legitimacy and proportionality.
We also regret the apparent lack of consultation with the public, as well as businesses which might be affected by the new law, prior to the passing of the law and call on the Government of Viet Nam to involve citizens and civil society in law and policy making.
We are further concerned about reports of clashes between protesters and the police across Viet Nam on Sunday in nation-wide demonstrations against the two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security, which led to the arrests of a large number of protesters. We are particularly concerned about allegations that some protesters were beaten by law enforcement authorities.
It is expected that these issues pertaining to freedom of opinion, expression and assembly will be discussed in detail in early 2019 during Vietnam’s reviews under the Universal Periodic Review and by the UN Human Rights Committee on the implementation of its commitments under the ICCPR.