Human Rights Vietnam

Vietnamese Lawyer Talks About Protecting Human Rights

The law firm Mannheimer Swartling and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute just wrapped up a week-long human rights seminar in Stockholm. The aim of the project is to support lawyers around the world who are working to strengthen the protection of human rights.

We caught up with one of the participants, Dang Dinh Bach, a member of the ASEAN lawyer network (SEALawyers) and Mekong Legal Network (MLN), to ask a few questions. Bach works at the Law and Policy of Sustainable Development Research Center (LPSD), an organization of Public Interest Lawyers in Vietnam. 

What was the focus of the workshop?

During the workshop we focused on what tools should be used by lawyers to protect human rights, and how to use them. It’s an opportunity to understand and learn more from what’s happening in the different countries represented here. We have been able to share information and get insights in the other participants different contexts.

Why are workshops like these important for the international development of human rights?

I think understanding the contexts from different countries is really important, cooperation is key. Here we can find common goals and find ways to collaborate in how to treat human rights issues. It’s important to meet with others and talk together to understand more and broaden your perspectives. Working as a human rights lawyer, it’s essential to get support from both national and international level, this is a good opportunity for that. 

The workshop is a great bridge to link local knowledge and information to the international level to make a more effective contribution for a better human rights situation globally.

What have you learned from the past week that will impact your work back home?

Firstly, it’s about what experiences I brought from working as a public interest lawyer in Vietnam. The key thing is to respect law, and be neutral politically, not criticizing the system or the government.

In Vietnam, we have good law and policies which meet with international human rights standards basically, but the same as other countries – there are many problems with implementation, for many reasons. As a lawyer I use law to make sure that it is practiced well and is implemented in a good way regarding human rights standards. It’s all there on paper, but how to practice it? That’s the challenge.

Secondly, Vietnam is a one party country, with more opposition political parties outside the country trying to use the term of “human rights” or “democracy” to criticize the current system and put human rights activists at risk. So in my context, in working to protect human rights, it’s not a good idea to use political reasons, but law.

Thirdly, I have been working as a public interest lawyer for many year at the national, regional and international levels with many tools to develop a strategic plan, legal campaign, and round-table dialogue. And this is good opportunity to share.

Furthermore, I am not a lawmaker or policymaker, I am law practitioner. That the reason why the lawyer who want to protect human rights should find out the solution to implement the law for rule of law more than blaming law or their state in situation that the law is not bed on the paper.      

What tools are there?

There are many tools, but it’s important to remember that you don’t just get a tool, you have to learn how to use it, and that’s what this workshop is about.

For example, law and policy at national and international levels is a helpful tool, working with governments and private sectors is another. Media attention is a tool to raise problems and share information to the public. The concept of fair trade, sustainability policy can also be used as a tool. When we all go back to our home countries, we have to make sure that we know how to use the new information and contacts gained during this week as tools for development. 

What have you most benefited from?

Firstly, I have had a great opportunity to join with lawyers who are  concerned about human rights to strengthen my voice, sharing my work and get further potential support.

Secondly, meeting with experts and lawyers has given me good information and knowledge, and I have gotten the chance to listen to people from the private sector, to discuss how the people know and understand UN principles. Furthermore, I also got to share my case and pass information from my context.

Not many people understand what happens in Vietnam with our country’s achievements and weaknesses, or how we work to protect human rights in a specific political space. Here, we can exchange information, share knowledge and form better understandings on human rights on an international level. In the future I therefore hope some of this week’s participants can come to visit Vietnam to discuss more on how to cooperate. In a globalized world, we need to work more together for a better world, and in a changing world.

The next step

One week is not enough, but it’s a step towards developing ideas and connecting with new partners. When I come here I share information, but how to use it like a tool? Development is something happening step by step, and from my experience, I need long-lasting partnerships to develop an idea. But I have found contacts here, people with great knowledge, whom I hope to support, and get supported by in my future work in sustainable solutions.

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