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S. 3974 (111th): Vietnam Human Rights Sanctions Act

The text of the bill below is as of Nov 18, 2010 (Introduced). The bill was not enacted into law.



2d Session

S. 3974


November 18, 2010

(for himself, Mr. Cornyn, and Mr. Burr) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs


To impose sanctions on individuals who are complicit in human rights abuses committed against nationals of Vietnam or their family members, and for other purposes.


Short title

This Act may be cited as the Vietnam Human Rights Sanctions Act.



Congress makes the following findings:


The relationship between the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has grown substantially since the end of the trade embargo in 1994, with annual trade between the countries reaching more than $15,200,000,000 in 2008.


The transition of the Government of Vietnam toward greater economic activity and trade has not been matched by greater political freedom and substantial improvements in basic human rights for the citizens of Vietnam, including freedom of religion, expression, association, and assembly.


The United States Congress agreed to Vietnam becoming an official member of the World Trade Organization in 2006, amidst assurances that the Government of Vietnam was steadily improving its human rights record and would continue to do so.


Despite assurances that Vietnam's accession to the World Trade Organization would be met with greater respect for human rights, the Government of Vietnam has continued to strictly regulate some religious practices and to imprison or put under house arrest an undetermined number of individuals for their peaceful advocacy of political views or religious beliefs, including Father Nguyen Van Ly, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Nguyen Tien Trung, Le Thang Long, Tran Duc Thach, Tran Anh Kim, Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Xuan Nghia, Nguyen Van Tuc, Nguyen Manh Son, Nguyen Manh Tinh, Ngo Quynh, Nguyen Kim Nhan, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Van Hai, Vu Hung, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, and Pham Thanh Nghien, and human rights lawyers, Le Cong Dinh, Nguyen Van Dai, and Le Thi Cong Nhan. Others arrested during 2010 are being held incommunicado, including Cu Huy Ha Vu, Pham Minh Hoang, Phan Thanh Hai, and Vi Duc Hoi.


Vietnam remains a one-party state, ruled and controlled by the Communist Party of Vietnam, which continues to deny the right of citizens to change their government.


Although in recent years the National Assembly of Vietnam has on occasion played a role as a forum for highlighting local concerns, corruption, and inefficiency, the National Assembly remains subject to the direction of the Communist Party of Vietnam and that party maintains control over the selection of candidates in national and local elections.


The Government of Vietnam forbids public challenge to the legitimacy of the one-party state, restricts freedoms of opinion, the press, assembly, and association, and tightly limits access to the Internet and telecommunication. Cyberattacks originating from Vietnam-based servers have disabled dissident websites and the Government of Vietnam introduced new restrictions on public internet shops while continuing to restrict access to numerous overseas and domestic blogs, news sites, and other websites perceived to carry content critical of the Government of Vietnam.


The Government of Vietnam continues to detain, imprison, place under house arrest, convict, and otherwise restrict individuals for the peaceful expression of dissenting political or religious views, including democracy and human rights activists, independent trade union leaders, non-state-sanctioned publishers, journalists, bloggers, members of ethnic minorities, and unsanctioned religious groups.


The Government of Vietnam has also failed to improve labor rights, continues to harass, arrest, and imprison workers rights activists, including Doan Huy Chuong, Do Thi Minh Hanh, and Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, and restricts the right to organize independently.


The Government of Vietnam continues to limit freedom of religion, pressure all religious groups to come under the control of government- and party-controlled management boards, and restrict the operation of independent religious organizations, including the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and members of unsanctioned Mennonite, Cao Dai, Theravada Buddhist, and Hoa Hao Buddhist religious groups and independent Protestant house churches, primarily in the central and northern highlands. Religious leaders who do not conform to the Government’s demands are often harassed, arrested, imprisoned, or put under house arrest.


As noted in the October 2009 report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, [T]here continue to be far too many serious abuses and restrictions of religious freedom in the country. Individuals continue to be imprisoned or detained for reasons related to their religious activity or religious freedom advocacy; police and government officials are not held fully accountable for abuses; independent religious activity remains illegal; and legal protection for government-approved religious organizations are both vague and subject to arbitrary or discriminatory interpretations based on political factors. In addition, improvements experienced by some religious communities are not experienced by others, including the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), independent Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, and Protestant groups, and some ethnic minority Protestants and Buddhists. Also, over the past year, property disputes between the government and the Catholic Church in Hanoi led to detention, threats, harassment, and violence by contract thugs against peaceful prayer vigils and religious leaders..


Despite reported progress in church openings and legal registrations of religious venues, the Government of Vietnam has halted most religious reforms since the Department of State lifted the country of particular concern for religious freedom violations designation for Vietnam in November 2006.


Unregistered ethnic minority Protestant congregations suffer severe abuses because of actions by the Government of Vietnam, which have included forced renunciations of faith, pressure to join government-recognized religious groups, arrest and harassment, the withholding of social programs provided for the general population, destruction of churches and pagodas, confiscation and destruction of property, and subjection to severe beatings.


During peaceful Catholic prayer vigils calling for the return of government-confiscated church properties during 2008 at the Thai Ha Church in Ha Noi, protestors were dispersed after being harassed, some were detained, and some of the church property was destroyed. Similar incidents happened at Bau Sen, Loan Ly, and Tam Toa parishes in central Vietnam and more recently at Dong Chiem parish in Hanoi, where religious statues and a crucifix were destroyed and parishioners and clergies were physically harmed, and at Con Dau parish, where police forcibly dispersed a Catholic funeral ceremony in May 2010 to a cemetery located on disputed land. Afterwards, police and members of the civilian defense forces arrested and interrogated dozens of Con Dau parishioners, with one parishioner dying from injuries sustained during a beating in July 2010 by civilian defense forces and two women suffered miscarriages resulted from police tortures. Catholics continue to face some restrictions on selection of clergy, the establishment of seminaries and seminary candidates, and restrictions on individual cases of travel and church registration. Dissident clerics such as Father Phan Van Loi and Father Nguyen Van Ly are currently under house arrest.


The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam suffers persecution as the Government of Vietnam continues to restrict contacts and movement of senior clergy for refusing to join the state-sponsored Buddhist organizations, the Government restricts expression and assembly, and the Government continues to harass and threaten monks, nuns, and youth leaders of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam. The Supreme Patriarch of Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, Thich Quang Do, is currently under house arrest.


The Bat Nha Buddhists monastery in Lam Dong province was attacked by government thugs in October 2009. About 400 monks and nuns were physically abused and forcibly evicted from the monastery.


The Government of Vietnam continues to suppress the activities of other religious adherents, including Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, Mennonites, and Montagnard Christians belonging to churches that lack official recognition or have chosen not to affiliate with the state-sanctioned groups, including through the use of detention and imprisonment.


During Easter weekend in April 2004, thousands of Montagnard Christians in the Central Highlands gathered to protest their treatment by the Government of Vietnam, including the confiscation of tribal lands and ongoing restrictions on religious activities. Credible reports indicate that the protests were met with violent response as many demonstrators were arrested or went into hiding, that many were injured, and that some were killed. At least 200 of these Montagnard Christians are still serving long sentences for their involvement in peaceful demonstrations in 2001 and 2004. Government officials continue to severely restrict movement by the Montagnards and prohibit them from seeking asylum in Cambodia. Many Montagnards were also imprisoned and otherwise mistreated for their involvement in demonstrations in 2008.


Ethnic minority Hmong in the Northwest Highlands of Vietnam also suffer restrictions, abuses, and persecution by the Government of Vietnam, and although the Government is now allowing some Hmong Protestants to organize and conduct religious activity, some government officials continue to deny or ignore additional applications for registration.


In 2007, the Government of Vietnam arrested and expelled at least 20 ethnic Khmer Buddhist monks in Soc Trang province from the monkhood and imprisoned 5 monks in response to a peaceful religious protest in February 2007. In July 2010, authorities in Tra Vinh arrested and purported to defrock Khmer Krom Buddhist abbot Thach Sophon, sentencing him in September to a 9-month suspended sentence. He remains under house arrest.


The Government of Vietnam controls all print and electronic media, including access to the Internet, jams the signals of some foreign radio stations, including Radio Free Asia, and has detained and imprisoned individuals who have posted, published, sent, or otherwise distributed democracy-related materials.


People arrested in Vietnam because of their political or religious affiliations and activities and charged with vaguely defined national security crimes are not accorded due process of law. During the pre-trial investigatory phase of their detention, religious and political prisoners are often held incommunicado without access to legal counsel and family members. They are routinely tortured during interrogation to force them to confess to crimes they did not commit or to falsely denounce others. Their trials are usually closed to international press and diplomats and members of the public.


Vietnam continues to be a source country for the commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor of women and girls and for men and women legally entering into international labor contracts who subsequently face conditions of debt bondage or forced labor, and is a destination country for child trafficking and continues to have internal human trafficking.


Labor export companies partly or wholly owned by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, and other agencies of the Government of Vietnam have frequently been identified as participants in human trafficking. There are a number of well-documented cases in which these state enterprises have misled workers by promising specific wages and working conditions, often in the form of signed contracts, only to require the workers to sign different contracts immediately before leaving for their foreign destinations. When workers have protested debt bondage or slavery-like conditions in the foreign workplaces to which these Vietnamese state enterprises have sent them, officials of the Ministry of Labor have traveled from Hanoi to threaten the trafficking victims with punishment under the laws of Vietnam if they do not cease their protests. Workers who have returned to Vietnam after being exploited by their foreign employers have reported being harassed and intimidated by public security forces, who typically accuse them of being liars, collaborating with reactionary forces overseas, and having betrayed their country.


United States refugee resettlement programs, including the Humanitarian Resettlement Program, the Orderly Departure Program, the Resettlement Opportunities for Vietnamese Returnees Program, general resettlement of boat people from refugee camps throughout Southeast Asia, the Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1988, and the priority one refugee resettlement category have helped resettle nationals of Vietnam who have suffered persecution on account of their associations with the United States as well as nationals of Vietnam who have been persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.


While previous programs have served their purposes well, a significant number of eligible refugees from Vietnam were unfairly denied or excluded, including Amerasians and Montagnards, in some cases by vindictive or corrupt officials of Vietnam who controlled access to the programs, and in others by United States personnel who imposed unduly restrictive interpretations of program criteria. In addition, the Government of Vietnam has denied passports to persons whom the United States has found eligible for refugee admission.


Congress has passed numerous resolutions condemning human rights violations in Vietnam, indicating that although there has been an expansion of relations with the Government of Vietnam, it should not be construed as approval of the ongoing and serious violations of fundamental human rights in Vietnam, particularly those enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Vietnam is a signatory.


Enhancement of relations between the United States and Vietnam has provided an opportunity for a human rights dialogue, but is unlikely to lead to future progress on human rights issues in Vietnam unless the United States makes clear that such progress is an essential prerequisite for further enhancements in the bilateral relationship.


Imposition of sanctions on certain individuals who are complicit in human rights abuses committed against nationals of Vietnam or their family members


In general

Except as provided in subsections (d) and (e), the President shall impose sanctions described in subsection (c) with respect to each individual on the list required by subsection (b).


List of individuals who are complicit in certain human rights abuses


In general

Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a list of individuals who are nationals of Vietnam that the President determines are complicit in human rights abuses committed against nationals of Vietnam or their family members, regardless of whether such abuses occurred in Vietnam.


Updates of list

The President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees an updated list under paragraph (1) as new information becomes available and not less frequently than annually.


Public availability

The list required by paragraph (1) shall be made available to the public and posted on the websites of the Department of the Treasury and the Department of State.


Consideration of data from other countries and nongovernmental organizations

In preparing the list required by paragraph (1), the President shall consider data already obtained by other countries and nongovernmental organizations, including organizations in Vietnam, that monitor the human rights abuses of the Government of Vietnam.


Sanctions described

The sanctions described in this subsection are the following:


Prohibition on entry and admission to the United States

An individual whose name appears on the list required by subsection (b) may not—


be admitted to, enter, or transit through the United States;


receive any lawful immigration status in the United States under the immigration laws, including any relief under the Convention Against Torture; or


file any application or petition to obtain such admission, entry, or status.


Financial sanctions

The President shall impose sanctions authorized pursuant to section 203 of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1702) with respect to an individual whose name appears on the list required by subsection (b), including blocking of the property of, and restricting or prohibiting financial transactions and the exportation and importation of property by, the individual.


Exceptions To comply with international agreements

The President may, by regulation, authorize exceptions to the imposition of sanctions under this section to permit the United States to comply with the Agreement between the United Nations and the United States of America regarding the Headquarters of the United Nations, signed June 26, 1947, and entered into force November 21, 1947, and other applicable international agreements.



The President may waive the requirement to impose or maintain sanctions with respect to an individual under subsection (a) or the requirement to include an individual on the list required by subsection (b) if the President—


determines that such a waiver is in the national interest of the United States; and


submits to the appropriate congressional committees a report describing the reasons for the determination.


Termination of sanctions

The provisions of this section shall cease to have force and effect on the date on which the President determines and certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the Government of Vietnam has—


unconditionally released all political prisoners;


ceased its practices of violence, unlawful detention, torture, and abuse of citizens of Vietnam while engaging in peaceful political activity; and


conducted a transparent investigation into the killings, arrest, and abuse of peaceful political activists in Vietnam and prosecuted those responsible.



In this section:


Appropriate congressional committees

The term appropriate congressional committees means—


the Committee on Finance, the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate; and


the Committee on Ways and Means, the Committee on Financial Services, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives.


Convention Against Torture

The term Convention Against Torture means the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, done at New York on December 10, 1984.


Immigration laws; national

The terms immigration laws and national have the meanings given those terms in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101).