OPEN LETTER: Trudeau Must Raise Grave Human Rights Issues in Philippines, Viet Nam and Myanmar during Visit to the Region

Amnesty International is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to raise pressing human rights concerns during his visits to the Philippines and Viet Nam this week. In an Open Letter to the Prime Minister, the organization highlighted opportunities to demonstrate much-needed leadership in addressing grave crises including the Philippines’ deadly ‘war on drugs’, detention of prisoners of conscience in Viet Nam and the crisis in Myanmar.
During his visit, Prime Minister Trudeau will attend the ASEAN Summit in Manilla, which runs from November 10th-14th against the backdrop of a full-blown human rights crisis in the Philippines. Since 30 June 2016, President Duterte’s brutal crackdown against the urban poor carried out in the name of combatting the drug trade has resulted in up to 12,000 deaths, including 50 children, with a majority of those amounting to extrajudicial killings carried out with near-total impunity. Amnesty International research has found that the scope and nature of the abuses may constitute crimes against humanity.
“President Duterte’s war on drugs is in fact a cold-blooded campaign of daily, on-the-spot executions targeted mostly against the urban poor. Under his watch and with his encouragement, thousands of people have been killed in the streets, including dozens of children,” says Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “While visiting the Philippines, Prime Minister Trudeau must take every possible opportunity to make Canada’s voice heard on this vicious crackdown by demanding a halt to these heinous crimes and calling for justice to be applied to the perpetrators.”
Before the ASEAN Summit, Prime Minister Trudeau will conduct an official visit to Viet Nam, where authorities have been carrying out a sustained crackdown on human rights defenders and activists in the lead up to the APEC Summit. People’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are severely restricted and Amnesty International has documented at least 95 prisoners of conscience serving long prison sentences after unfair trials, or in pre-trial detention, where they face the risk of torture and other grave abuses. Viet Nam ranks among the top five executioners globally, with 15 crimes, including economic offenses, punishable by death.
“During his meetings with Vietnamese leadership, Prime Minister Trudeau must use his influence to call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience in Viet Nam, including Nguyễn Văn Đài, Lê Thu Hà and Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh,” says Neve. “The Prime Minister must use all avenues at his disposal to call on Viet Nam to address failings in the country’s justice system which allow for extended incommunicado detention, arbitrary arrest and detention of activists and human rights defenders, and application of the death penalty in an alarming number of circumstances.”
Call for Regional Response to the Rohingya Crisis
During both the APEC and ASEAN Summits, Prime Minister Trudeau will also have an opportunity to help galvanize a regional response to the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population in Myanmar. In appointing a special envoy for the Crisis in Myanmar, Canada has already signalled its intention to assume a role of leadership in response to the crisis, which has been marked by extreme levels of violence, mass burnings of Rohingya homes and villages and the displacement of approximate 600,000 people in the course of two and a half months.
“Canada has already shown a willingness to step up and show leadership in response to the Myanmar military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya population. During the APEC and ASEAN Summits, Prime Minister Trudeau has a tremendous opportunity to build on steps his government has taken to date by stressing the importance of an urgent and concerted regional effort to bring the crackdown to a halt,” says Neve. “Working with regional actors and those who carry influence with Myanmar’s military will be critical in ending this crisis and it is essential that the Prime Minister capitalizes on his visit to press that point.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Jacob Kuehn, Press Officer, Amnesty International; (w) +1 613 744 7667 x 236; (c) +1 613 853 2142;