On 13th – 14th June 2016, in Nha Trang, with the support of USAID programme “Governance of Inclusive Growth” (GIG), the Ministry of Justice organized a Consultative Workshop on the Draft of amended Law on Legal Aid under the chair of Deputy Minister of Justice - Mr. Nguyen Khanh Ngoc and Director General of National Legal Aid Agency - Ms. Nguyen Thi Minh.
Participants in the Workshop include representatives of ministries and agencies (such as The Central Steering Committee, the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Security, the People’s Procuracy, the Supreme Court, etc); partners, experts of national and international organizations; representatives of many departments of MOJ; representatives of Department of Justice, State Legal Aid Centers, Vietnam Bar Federation, Bar Association in many provinces and cities directly under the Central, members of the Drafting Committee and the Editorial Team of the amended Law on Legal Aid and other related agencies, organizations and individuals.
At the opening session, Deputy Minister Nguyen Khanh Ngoc emphasized that legal aid was an important policy of the Party and the State for the poor, victims as recognized by the State policy and other vulnerable groups in the society. To address the problems and shortcomings during the implementation of the 2006 Law on Legal Aid in the new context, the amendments of the Law on Legal Aid is necessary. In order to implement the 2016 Program on the development of Law and Ordinance and to have a high quality Draft of amended Law on Legal Aid, MOJ gathered opinions from many ministries, sectors, localities and the People on the amended Law on Legal Aid and this Workshop was in the plan. In two days, the Workshop attracted a large and diversified number of participants including managers, providers, international and national experts as well as related organizations and individuals. The Deputy Minister suggested participants should provide many opinions on the content of the Draft so that the Standing Committee of the Editorial Team could discuss and develop a higher quality Draft to submit to the Government in July 2016.
On behalf of the Standing Committee of the Editorial Team, Mr. Cu Thu Anh, Deputy Director of the NLAA presented the Draft of the amended Law on Legal Aid, focusing on the scope, the organizational structure, legal aid organizations, legal aid beneficiaries, legal aid providers, legal aid forms. During the workshop, Mr. Patrick Anthony Burgess, a consultant expert of USAID and GIG programme presented the compatibility between the Draft of the amended Law on Legal aid and international Conventions, Treaties to which Vietnam is a party and international practice of legal aid and recommendations. Pro.Dr. Nguyen Thi Mo – Director of Institute of Public Policy and Law (under the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology ) presented a Report on the practice of the Law on Legal Aid and other related policies, recommendations on the Draft of amended Law on Legal Aid. In addition, the Workshop received comprehensive comments from Doctor Duong Dang Hue, the former director of the Department of Civil and Economics Law, Doctor Duong Thanh Mai, senior expert of the MOJ and other participants.
Deputy Minister Nguyen Khanh Ngoc affirmed a principle that legal aid is provided free of charge to the person who are unable to affort lawyers and taken into account the condition of Vietnam having gone through the wars. The expansion of legal aid beneficiaries needs be compatible with the capability and resources (financial and human). The Deputy Minister stated that the amendment of the Law on Legal Aid aimed to guarantee the quality of services for legal aid beneficiaries. Regarding the legal aid providers, the Law continued to attract social forces to involve in legal aid , however they have to meet conditions and criteria in order to provide legal aid; with a long-term commitment, sustainability, quality and efficiency of legal aid.
In the context of Vietnam current legal system, so far the legal dissemination and education has its own a special guarantee mechanism. Therefore, legal aid will focus on proceedings, especially criminal proceedings. This is also learnt from international experiences on legal aid. However, during the transition period, we should inherit those experiences in an appropriate manner which ensures an unchanged target and effectiveness of the country.
The Reform Project of Legal Aid points out orientations in the upcoming 10 years, however, we will need appropriate steps with a thorough understanding that the amended Law in a turning point in this period. Therefore, the Deputy Minister suggested that the organizational structure of legal aid should be considered in resonable successor to present model, avoid unnecessary scrambling the apparatus.
Following opinions of the Deputy Minister Nguyen Khanh Ngoc, the Workshop worked focusedly and positively. The delegates contributed many direct ideas and comments on impotant terms and articles of the Draft Law. In general, the delegates agreed on the main content of the Draft in term of its scope, responsibility of the State towards legal aid work, expansion of legal aid beneficiaries, legal aid providers and their criteria and conditions, streamlining of the organizational apparatus.
However, there were still some opposing opinions on the design of the legal aid organization (whether should be hierarchical or as present with appropriate and effective adjustments); who will be able to sign legal aid contracts with legal aid providers, expansion of legal aid beneficiaries, etc.
The workshop continued to the end of 14th June 2016 with specific ideas of delegates and both international and national experts in term of theoretical and practical point of view towards the content of the Draft Law. The opinions gathered in the Workshop will be summarized and discussed by the Standing Committee of Editorial Team before giving submittion to the Leaders of MOJ. The Draft Law is expected to submit to the Government in July 2016.