Saturday, May 16, 2015

• S.929 - Vietnam Human Rights Sanctions Act 113th Congress (2013-2014)


Sponsor: Sen. Cornyn, John [R-TX] (Introduced 05/09/2013)
Committees: Senate - Foreign Relations
Latest Action: 05/09/2013 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.


Vietnam Human Rights Sanctions Act - Directs the President to: 

  • (1) impose financial and immigration/entry sanctions on listed nationals of Vietnam who are complicit in human rights abuses committed against nationals of Vietnam or their family members, regardless of whether such abuses occurred in Vietnam; and 
  • (2) submit to Congress a publicly available list of individuals determined to be complicit in such human rights abuses.
Authorizes the President to waive sanctions to comply with international agreements or if in the U.S. national interest.

Terminates sanctions if the President certifies to Congress that the government of Vietnam has: 
  • (1) released all political prisoners; 
  • (2) ceased its practices of violence, detention, and abuse of citizens of Vietnam engaging in peaceful political activity; and 
  • (3) conducted a transparent investigation into the killings, arrest, and abuse of such political activists and prosecuted those responsible.
Expresses the sense of Congress that: 
  • (1) the U.S.-Vietnam relationship cannot progress while the government of Vietnam's human rights record continues to deteriorate, and 
  • (2) the Secretary of State should designate Vietnam as a country of particular concern with respect to religious freedom.
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Text: S.929 — 113th Congress (2013-2014)
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Introduced in Senate (05/09/2013)
113th CONGRESS - 1st Session - S. 929

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.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
May 9, 2013

Mr. Cornyn introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations



A BILL
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.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the “Vietnam Human Rights Sanctions Act”.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
Congress makes the following findings:

  • (1) 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 $24,800,000,000 in 2012.
  • (2) However, the transition by the Government of Vietnam toward greater economic activity and trade, which has led to increased bilateral engagement between the United States and Vietnam, has not been matched by greater political freedom or substantial improvements in basic human rights for the people of Vietnam.
  • (3) Vietnam remains an authoritarian state ruled by the Communist Party of Vietnam, which continues to deny the right of the people of Vietnam to participate in free and fair elections.
  • (4) According to the Department of State’s 2012 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Vietnam’s “most significant human rights problems . . . continued to be severe government restrictions on citizens’ political rights, particularly their right to change their government; increased measures to limit citizens’ civil liberties; and corruption in the judicial system and police”.
  • (5) The Country Reports also state that the Government of Vietnam “increasingly limited freedoms of speech and press and suppressed dissent; further restricted Internet freedom; reportedly continued to be involved in attacks against Web sites containing criticism; maintained spying on dissident bloggers; and continued to limit privacy rights and freedoms of assembly, association, and movement”.
  • (6) Furthermore, the Department of State documents that “arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly for political activists, remained a problem”, with the Government of Vietnam sentencing “at least 35 arrested activists during [2012] to a total of 131 years in jail and 27 years of probation for exercising their rights”.
  • (7) At the end of 2012, the Government of Vietnam reportedly held more than 120 political prisoners, and diplomatic sources maintained that 4 reeducation centers in Vietnam held approximately 4,000 prisoners.
  • (8) On September 24, 2012, 3 prominent Vietnamese bloggers—Nguyen Van Hai (also known as Dieu Cay), Ta Phong Tan, and Phan Thanh Hai (also known as Anh Ba Saigon)—were sentenced to prison based on 3-year-old blog postings criticizing the Government and leaders of Vietnam and the Communist Party of Vietnam.
  • (9) United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay responded to the sentencing of the bloggers on September 25, 2012, stating that “[t]he harsh prison terms handed down to bloggers exemplify the severe restrictions on freedom of expression in Vietnam” and calling the sentences an “unfortunate development that undermines the commitments Vietnam has made internationally . . . to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression”.
  • (10) On March 21, 2013, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Daniel B. Baer testified before the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate that “in Vietnam we’ve been disappointed in recent years to see backsliding, particularly on . . . freedom of expression issues . . . people are being prosecuted for what they say online under really draconian national security laws . . . that is an issue that we continue to raise, both in our human rights dialogue with the Vietnamese as well as in other bilateral engagements”.
  • (11) Although the Constitution of Vietnam provides for freedom of religion, the Department of State’s 2012 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices maintains that “Vietnamese who exercise their right to freedom of religion continued to be subject to harassment, differing interpretations and applications of the law, and inconsistent legal protection, especially at provincial and village levels”.
  • (12) Likewise, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2013 Annual Report states that “[r]eligious freedom conditions remain very poor” in Vietnam and the “Vietnamese government continues to imprison individuals for religious activity or religious freedom advocacy” using a “specialized religious police force . . . and vague national security laws to suppress independent Buddhist, Protestant, Hoa Hao, and Cao Dai activities, and seeks to stop the growth of ethnic minority Protestantism and Catholicism via discrimination, violence and forced renunciations of their faith”.
  • (13) The 2013 Annual Report notes that in 2004 the United States designated Vietnam as a country of particular concern for religious freedom pursuant to section 402(b)(1) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6442(b)(1)), and that Vietnam responded at that time by releasing prisoners, prohibiting the policy of forced renunciations of faith, and expanding protections for religious groups, and that “[m]ost religious leaders in Vietnam attributed these positive changes to the [country of particular concern] designation and the priority placed on religious freedom concerns in U.S.-Vietnamese bilateral relations”.
  • (14) However, the 2013 Annual Report concludes that since the designation as a country of particular concern was lifted from Vietnam in 2006, “religious freedom conditions in Vietnam remain mixed”, and therefore recommends to the Department of State that Vietnam should be redesignated as a country of particular concern.
  • (15) Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Baer likewise testified that “[i]n Vietnam the right to religious freedom, which seemed to be improving several years ago, has been stagnant for several years”.
SEC. 3. IMPOSITION OF SANCTIONS ON CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE COMPLICIT IN HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES COMMITTED AGAINST NATIONALS OF VIETNAM OR THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS.
(a) Definitions.—In this section:
(1) ADMITTED; ALIEN; IMMIGRATION LAWS; NATIONAL; SPOUSE.—The terms “admitted”, “alien”, “immigration laws”, “national”, and “spouse” have the meanings given those terms in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101).

(2) APPROPRIATE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES.—The term “appropriate congressional committees” means—

  • (A) the Committee on Finance, the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate; and
  • (B) the Committee on Ways and Means, the Committee on Financial Services, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives.
(3) 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.

(4) UNITED STATES PERSON.—The term “United States person” means—

  • (A) a United States citizen or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence to the United States; or
  • (B) an entity organized under the laws of the United States or of any jurisdiction within the United States, including a foreign branch of such an entity.
(b) Imposition Of Sanctions.—
Except as provided in subsections (e) and (f), the President shall impose the sanctions described in subsection (d) with respect to each individual on the list required by subsection (c)(1).

(c) List Of Individuals Who Are Complicit In Certain Human Rights Abuses.—

  • (1) 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.
  • (2) 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.
  • (3) PUBLIC AVAILABILITY.—The list required by paragraph (1) shall be made available to the public and posted on the Web sites of the Department of the Treasury and the Department of State.
  • (4) 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.
(d) Sanctions.—
(1) PROHIBITION ON ENTRY AND ADMISSION TO THE UNITED STATES.—An individual on the list required by subsection (c)(1) may not—

  • (A) be admitted to, enter, or transit through the United States;
  • (B) receive any lawful immigration status in the United States under the immigration laws, including any relief under the Convention Against Torture; or
  • (C) file any application or petition to obtain such admission, entry, or status.
(2) FINANCIAL SANCTIONS.—The President shall freeze and prohibit all transactions in all property and interests in property of an individual on the list required by subsection (c)(1) if such property and interests in property are in the United States, come within the United States, or are or come within the possession or control of a United States person.

(e) 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.

(f) Waiver.—

The President may waive the requirement to impose or maintain sanctions with respect to an individual under subsection (b) or the requirement to include an individual on the list required by subsection (c)(1) if the President—

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

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

(g) Termination Of Sanctions.—The provisions of this section shall terminate on the date on which the President determines and certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the Government of Vietnam has—

  • (1) unconditionally released all political prisoners;
  • (2) ceased its practices of violence, unlawful detention, torture, and abuse of nationals of Vietnam while those nationals are engaging in peaceful political activity; and
  • (3) conducted a transparent investigation into the killings, arrest, and abuse of peaceful political activists in Vietnam and prosecuted those responsible.
SEC. 4. SENSE OF CONGRESS ON DESIGNATION OF VIETNAM AS A COUNTRY OF PARTICULAR CONCERN WITH RESPECT TO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.
It is the sense of Congress that—

  • (1) the relationship between the United States and Vietnam cannot progress while the record of the Government of Vietnam with respect to human rights and the rule of law continues to deteriorate;
  • (2) the designation of Vietnam as a country of particular concern for religious freedom pursuant to section 402(b)(1) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6442(b)(1)) would be a powerful and effective tool in highlighting abuses of religious freedom in Vietnam and in encouraging improvement in the respect for human rights in Vietnam; and
  • (3) the Secretary of State should, in accordance with the recommendation of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, designate Vietnam as a country of particular concern for religious freedom.