S 1051

112th CONGRESS
1st Session

S. 1051

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 24, 2011

Mr. CORNYN (for himself and Mr. BURR) 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 $18,000,000,000 in 2010.

      (2) However, the transition by the Government of Vietnam toward greater economic activity and trade 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) In 2006, Congress agreed to Vietnam becoming an official member of the World Trade Organization, amid assurances by the Government of Vietnam that it was steadily improving its human rights record and would continue to do so.

      (5) According to the 2011 annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, `Vietnam's overall human rights record remains poor, and has deteriorated since Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization in 2007.'.

      (6) On October 30, 2010, while in Hanoi, Vietnam, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, `[T]he United States remains concerned about the arrest and conviction of people for peaceful dissent, the attacks on religious groups, the curbs on Internet freedom, including of bloggers. Vietnam has so much potential, and we believe that political reform and respect for human rights are an essential part of realizing that potential.'.

      (7) On March 31, 2011, the Assistant Secretary of State of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Kurt M. Campbell, testified before the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, saying, `[W]e remain deeply concerned about the lack of progress in the human rights front. We continue to make it very clear to the Vietnamese government that political freedoms are not a source of instability but of strength.'.

      (8) According to the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices of the Department of State, in 2010, the Government of Vietnam `increased its suppression of dissent, arresting at least 25 political activists' and `political opposition movements were prohibited'. Although there are no precise estimates of the number of political prisoners held at the end of 2010, the Government of Vietnam reportedly held more than 100, with international observers claiming there were more.

      (9) The Country Reports of the Department of State also state that the Government of Vietnam has `increased measures to limit citizens' privacy rights and freedom of the press, speech, assembly, movement, and association' and that `Internet freedom was further restricted as the government orchestrated attacks against critical Web sites and spied on dissident bloggers'.

      (10) Furthermore, the Country Reports of the Department of State state, with respect to Vietnam, `Credible reports suggested that local police used `contract thugs' and `citizen brigades' to harass and beat political activists and others, including religious worshippers, perceived as `undesirable' or a `threat' to public security.'.

      (11) In May 2010, Vietnamese police in Thanh Hoa province shot and killed 2 people, including a 12-year-old child, for participating in a land-rights protest against a state-owned enterprise.

      (12) The Country Reports of the Department of State also maintain, with respect to Vietnam, that arbitrary detentions, particularly of political activists, remain a problem, and that authorities of Vietnam increasingly charge political dissidents with violating article 79 of Vietnam's penal code, which penalizes `attempting to overthrow the state', due to alleged memberships in political parties other than the Communist Party of Vietnam. That charge carries a potential death penalty.

      (13) On October 29, 2010, United States citizen Le Kin was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City for `alleged involvement with overseas political organizations critical of the government', an article 79 violation.

      (14) In November 2010, Vietnamese attorney Cu Huy Ha Vu was arrested for posting articles on the Internet and giving interviews with foreign media that were critical of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

      (15) On January 5, 2011, Christian Marchant, a United States diplomat at the United States Embassy in Hanoi, was harassed and beaten by the Vietnamese police when he went to visit Catholic priest Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly, a Vietnamese dissident under house arrest on charges of undermining the Government of Vietnam.

      (16) According to the Department of State, international nongovernmental organizations estimate that several hundred Montagnard demonstrators who were connected with the Central Highlands anti-government protests in 2004 remained in prison in Vietnam as of December 2010.

      (17) The Country Reports of the Department of State also state that, in Vietnam, `[h]ousehold registration and block warden systems existed for the surveillance of all citizens' and that authorities of the Government of Vietnam have--

        (A) opened and censored mail of targeted persons;

        (B) forcibly entered homes of prominent dissidents to remove personal computers and cell phones;

        (C) monitored telephone conversations, email, text messages, and fax transmissions;

        (D) cut telephone lines and interrupted cell phone and Internet service for a number of political activists and their families; and

        (E) forbidden direct access to the Internet through foreign Internet service providers and monitored Internet activities.

      (18) On March 30, 2010, Google affirmed that malware implanted in Vietnamese-language keyboard software was being used to spy on dissidents in Vietnam and launch `denial-of-service attacks' against blogs containing political dissent.

      (19) In 2004, the Department of State designated Vietnam as a country of particular concern with respect to religious freedom pursuant to section 402(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6442(b)) as a result of reports of increased harassment of ethnic minority Protestants and Buddhists. However, on November 13, 2006, the Department of State announced that the designation of Vietnam as a country of particular concern with respect to religious freedom had been lifted due to `many positive steps' taken by the Government of Vietnam.

      (20) According to the 2010 Country Reports of the Department of State, many unrecognized Protestant churches in Vietnam reported difficulties, such as services being broken up by police, pressure on followers to abandon their faith, and repeated and extended detention and physical abuse of church members and leaders.

      (21) The 2011 annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recommends to the Department of State that Vietnam should be designated as a country of particular concern with respect to religious freedom due to `severe religious freedom abuses'.

      (22) The Commission's report highlights serious violations of religious freedom in Vietnam, including--

        (A) imprisonment and detention of individuals for religious activity or religious freedom advocacy;

        (B) laws prohibiting independent religious activity;

        (C) vague legal protections for government-approved religious organizations that are subject to arbitrary and discriminatory interpretations;

        (D) specific discrimination against the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, independent Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, and Protestant groups, and some ethnic minority Protestants and Buddhists;

        (E) property disputes between the Government of Vietnam and the Catholic Church in Hanoi that have led to detentions, threats, harassment, and violence against peaceful prayer vigils and religious leaders;

        (F) detention of dozens of ethnic minority Protestants for `independent' religious activity; and

        (G) harassment of monks and nuns associated with Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh and forcible disbandment of his order.

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).

    (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 websites 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 with respect to religious freedom pursuant to section 402(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6442(b)) 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 with respect to religious freedom.

END