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Australia-Vietnam 2016 Human Rights Dialogue: Civil Society Consultation

1. The Law Council of Australia thanks the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for the opportunity to again engage in the DFAT’s Civil Society Consultation on 23 June 2016 and to provide a written submission ahead of the Australia-Vietnam Dialogue. 

2. The Law Council is encouraged by the continuation of the Annual Dialogues, the willingness of representatives from the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to meet with civil society during the 2015 Dialogue, and DFAT’s continued engagement with civil society organisations in respect of the Annual Dialogues. The Law Council considers such engagement with civil society allows for an exchange between Government and organisations that is vital to ensuring the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights, with which States are obliged to comply under international law. 

3. As set out in its previous submission,1 the Law Council represents the Australian legal profession on national issues and promotes the administration of justice, access to justice and general improvement of the law. Through its constituent bodies – 16 Australian state and territory law societies and bar associations and Law Firms Australia – it represents over 60,000 lawyers. The Law Council’s Rule of Law Principles2 provides the framework under which the Law Council promotes and defends the legal profession’s interests in the Asia-Pacific region, including in Vietnam. 

4. The Law Council’s comments in this submission are limited to the legal framework in Vietnam, the legal profession, the death penalty, human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like conditions and international obligations on both Australia and Vietnam. This submission addresses the developments since the Law Council’s last submission, provided to DFAT on 5 August 2015. 

5. The Law Council acknowledges that Vietnam has implemented a number of measures to improve consistency with the rule of law and human rights standards. However, the Law Council remains concerned by reports from United Nations (UN) bodies, the United States of America (US) Department of State, the United Kingdom (UK) Foreign and Commonwealth Office and international non-government organisations (NGOs) in respect of human rights violations that continue to take place in Vietnam, which contravene the rule of law and human rights standards. 

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