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Statement by U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David B. Shear on the Occasion of International Human Rights Day

December 10, 2013

We celebrate International Human Rights Day to mark the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948.  Drafted by representatives from around the world, the declaration clearly outlines the universal concepts of the most fundamental rights and freedoms of all people.

The United States and Vietnam reaffirmed their commitment to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership announced by President Obama and President Sang in July.  The message is clear:  the United States supports a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam that respects human rights and the rule of law.  Such a Vietnam would be an even stronger partner for the United States and would be best able to effectively support joint U.S.-Vietnamese priorities for regional security and bilateral trade.  In only a few short months since this meeting of our presidents, Vietnam has signed the UN Convention Against Torture and reached out to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief for a fall visit to Vietnam.

The challenge of living up to the high standards and commitments of serving well on the UN Human Rights Council will soon be Vietnam’s.  Vietnam will also have the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the world stage in word and deed.  As a fellow member on the Council, the United States will seek to partner with Vietnam at every opportunity in pursuit of these high standards.

Achieving demonstrable progress on human rights is vital to our relationship, affecting every facet of foreign policy.  We call on the Vietnamese government to take concrete steps to improve its record, including to release all prisoners of conscience, allow all Vietnamese to express themselves, and to protect religious freedom nationwide.  We have broad consensus in the United States that significant progress on human rights is necessary for closer bilateral ties and to further cement the many gains we have made across a broad range of economic, political, social, and security issues.  I look forward to an increasingly candid and open dialogue with the government of Vietnam as it works to strengthen its protection of universal human rights, as envisioned by the nations of the world 65 years ago.