Washington D.C. Protest – International Human Rights Day Dec. 10, 2011


Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

So begins the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, no doubt an important foundation for a potential world peace.

On International Human Rights day, December 10, 2011, in Washington D.C., a few activists and myself stood in front of the Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and read the articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in English and Vietnamese through a megaphone. Our goal was simple. We wanted to remind the government of Vietnam that all human beings, regardless of which side of the hemisphere they live in, are entitled to fundamental rights and freedoms. In light of the Vietnamese government’s recent crackdowns on activists and bloggers, it was clear to many, if not all, that the government of Vietnam was violating some of the following articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights including but not limited to:

Article 1.

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 3.

  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 5.

  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 9.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

  • Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.

  • (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
  • (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

The recent arbitrary arrests of Vietnamese youth activists and bloggers in Vietnam blatantly violates articles 9, 11, and 12 above. The methods by which they were detained violates article 5. The coercive silencing of the detained activists in court (if any hearing is held) violates article 10. And the ordeals that these activists are subjected to are a breach of articles 1 and 3.

It was a cold day, that Saturday Dec. 10, but we definitely felt the warmth coming from the flames of liberty. We believe that these flames are spreading, and will one day sweep over the lands of the oppressed, like quenching rain that falls on barren desert that has experienced drought for too long. The people thirst and hunger for justice, freedom, and liberty…

(Note 1: The complete Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be found at the following link: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml)

(Note 2: A member of Viet Tan has informed me that the arrests of the Vietnamese youth activists also violate articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, more information can be found at the following link: http://www.viettan.org/Vietnamese-Government-urged-to.html)

– Anh Nhật