On June 24, 2011, Vo Van Ai, President and Founder of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), a member organization of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was awarded the 9th Special Prize for Freedom by the Italian organisation Società Libera.
The Award was given to recognize Mr. Ai’s life-long work to promote greater respect for human rights and the rule of law in Vietnam. In an interview with Mr. Ai following the award, FIDH spoke with him on the state of human rights in Viet Nam.
There is a wide gulf between the rhetoric and reality in Vietnam as far as human rights is concerned, said Mr. Ai. Vietnam often presents a facade of compliance with international human rights law and standards, but the situation on the grounds speaks much to the contrary, as fundamental freedoms are routinely and grossly violated with impunity. There is no rule of law, but rule by law, as the authorities use restrictive and draconian laws and decrees to legalize repression of government critics. Universal human rights are trumped by the “interests of the State and the Party”.
In addition to discussing the human rights implications of Vietnam’s interaction with its neighbours such as Cambodia, Laos and China, Mr. Ai also analyzed the likelihood of a “Vietnam Spring”, the role of youth in Vietnamese society today, the important watchdog role of the UN human rights system, and the challenges facing the Vietnamese diaspora.