According to the 2016 Law-, Ordinance- Making Programs of Vietnamese National Assembly, the amended Law on Legal Aid will be submitted at the 2nd session of 14th National Assembly. Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is in charged of leading the Drafting Committee of this Law. As a body of MoJ, National Legal Aid Agency (NLAA) plays a crucial role as the Standing Editing Team.
With the support of UNODC, UNWOMEN, UNICEF, UNAIDS of UN, the MoJ organized an International Sharing Experience Workshop on Legal Aid on March 28-29, 2016 in Hanoi. There are more than 200 participants including members of the Drafting Committee, the Editing Team of the amended Law, representatives of relevant ministries and organizations such as Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Health, The Supreme People’s Procuracy, The Supreme People’s Court, Vietnam Lawyers Association, Viet Nam Bar Federation; representatives of several embassies of other countries in Vietnam, namely Belgium, France, Israel, etc.
Under the chair of Sir. Le Thanh Long, Vice Minister of Justice, the Workshop has achieved a great success with various number of speeches and comments from both international and national experts.
The workshop aims at counsulting international experiences to develop the amended Law on Legal Aid of Vietnam in order to ensure the quality, feasibility and transparency of the Law in comparision with international routines on legal aid.
At the opening of the workshop, Sir. Le Thanh Long, confirmed that legal aid is the responsibility of the State and there should be no one general model for all different provinces. Following those directions, Mme. Nguyen Thi Minh, Director General of National Legal Aid Agency, the leader of Editing Team, mentioned some shortcomings in the process of implementing the 2006 Law on Legal Aid and outstanding orientations for drafting the amended Law with regard to the concept of legal aid, the scope of the amended Law, legal aid beneficiaries, legal aid providers, legal aid procedures and legal aid vertical system.
Concurrently, both domestic and foreign experts actively shared their experiences on legal aid as well as raised questions and practical issues for the development of legal aid work in Vietnam. In other words, they discussed both advantages and disadvantages of current legal aid activities such as: models of legal aid system, legal aid providers, legal aid beneficiaries, finanical sources for legal aid, quality of legal aid cases, state management and responsibility of central and local agencies.
The participants were also interested in the presentations of the experts from Israel and Philippines on public defenders, system of legal aid providers paid by the State. Particularly, the speeches of Mr. David, the Israel expert, about Law on Public Defenders, structure and activities of the Israel Public Defender Office and Israel State large expenditures for legal aid work, drew great attention of all participants.
Regardings to legal aid services for beneficiaries, Ms. Jane Sanders, Principal Solicitor, from Australia introduced a model and actitives of legal aid for children given by her Youth Shopfront Legal Center. In her opinion, this Center has provided legal aid for children and young people who have characteristics such as family breakdown, abuse, parents unable to provide care, poverty, homlessness, limited schooling, low literacy and numeracy, racial and other forms of discrimination. About the same topic, Ms. Julie Hamblin, Consultant, HWL Ebsworth Lawyers, talked about providing legal aid for people living with HIV in Australia.
Mr. Binh, from Provincial Legal Aid Center in Bac Giang province, emphasized the impacts of the 2006 Law on Legal aid. He said that it was very important to learn from international experiences, nevertherless those experiences should be reasonably selected and imported in the amended Law so that it would be suitable to the conditions of Viet Nam.
In conclusion, Doctor Nguyen Thi Minh, Director General of NLAA expressed her appreciation and gratitude for the support of international organizations, foreign embassies in Vietnam. She also highly recognized the enthusiasm of international and national experts in sharing their experiences on legal aid. The Director wished to receive more interests and prompt support from both national and international agencies, organizations and individuals in the process of development and implementation of the Law on Legal Aid (amended) so as to ensure legitimate rights and interests of the poor, vulnerable groups of Vietnam in the coming time.