On November 11, at the meeting hall, theVietnamese National Assembly has an open discussion on the draft Law on Legal Aid (amended). Although this was the first discussion on this issue, it attracted many positive attitudes from the Members of the National Assembly. After listening to various opinions, the Minister of Justice, Mr. Le Thanh Long explained some key issues in order to clarify the content of the Bill.
To clarify the nature of legal aid and free legal services provided by the State
Ms. Hoang Thi Thu Trang, a delegate from Nghe An agreed with the proposal that there is a distinction between legal aid activities organized by the State and other free legal services known as pro-bono which have been misunderstood for the past few years.
The delegate emphasized that: Regarding to the scope of legal aid, under the Law on Legal Aid 2006, legal aid is provided in many forms, including dissemination & education and mediation at grassroots level. So far, the National Assembly has already passed the Law on Law Dissemination and Education 2012, the Law on Mediation at Grassroots Level 2013. Accordingly, these activities are assigned to specific organizations, agencies, individuals in the political and social system such as judicial agencies, local authorities, the Fatherland Front Committee, legal practicing organizations,… Therefore, it is necessary to distinguish dissemination & education and mediation from legal aid work in order to avoid duplication and overlap between those two issues which may affect the professionalization of legal aid.
To further clarify, Mr. Luu Binh Nhuong, a delegate from Ben Tre analyzed that: Currently, there are many legal aid forms such as legal services requiring remuneration for lawyers, legal aid services in internal organizations, pro bono services, and legal aid services as mentioned in this discussion. According to the Law, legal aid beneficiaries are the poor and people with meritorious service, vulnerable groups in the society, and legal aid services are provided by the State budget.
With the same opinion, Ms. Tran Thi Hien, a delegate from Ha Nam, expressed her agreement with the provisions on legal aid forms in the Draft Law: “There should be 3 legal aid forms including legal proceedings, representation beyond legal proceedings and legal advice. This is the time to shape the legal aid work to fit its nature which is a legal support activity with focus on meeting legal aid demand of specific people when they have legal difficulties.
Consider on extending legal aid beneficiaries in line with relevant laws.
Some participants (Ms. Ngo Thi Minh - Quang Ninh, Mr.Huynh Thanh Canh - Binh Thuan, Mr. Hoang Van Hung - Thai Nguyen, Mr.Nguyen Sy Cuong - Ninh Thuan) proposed that the Law should extend legal aid beneficiaries to be in accordance with other laws and to other vulnerable groups.
Arguing with above opinions, Mr. Pham Dinh Cuc (Ba Ria - Vung Tau) said that many provisions in the Draft Law are appropriate. The delegate emphasized that if we extend the scope of legal aid beneficiaries to many others as some delegates propose, then “No State could ever supports” .
The goal of improving the quality of legal aid
Participants agreed with the aim of the Law which focuses on enhancing the quality of legal aid. In the condition that our resources are still limited, current resources should be reasonably utilized to guarantee the feasibility of the Law.
On this issue, Mr. Luu Binh Nhuong, from Ben Tre argued that: Quality of legal aid is very important and this issue is approved by the Politburo when proposing renewal of the legal aid work. Specifically, to ensure legal representation according to the Constitution and the Law on Organization of People's Court in 2014, legal aid providers must have knowledge and professional skills, so as not to let vulnerable groups to be served with low quality services, because those are already at disadvantaged conditions, then they should be provided quality free legal aid services.
Mr. Huynh Thanh Canh, Binh Thuan said that an important and breakthrough solution is the human resource, especially the issue of raising the quality of legal aid.
Minister of Justice provides further explainations concerning opinions of the Members of National Assembly.
At the end of the discussion, the Minister of Justice Le Thanh Long clarifies some key issues stated in the Draft Law.
On bringing legal aid to its nature: The Minister said that when building the Law on Legal Aid in 2006, the specific economic - social conditions were different from now and legal systems were not as synchronized as the current legal system. Therefore, the 2006 Law covers many things in its scope. From then till now, there have been issued many other legal nomative documents, such as Decree 77/2008 / ND-CP on legal advice, the Law on Law Dissemination and Education 2012, the Law on Mediation at Grassroots Level in 2013 . With the current draft of Law on Legal Aid, the Government tends to make an adjustment to separate those issues, to bring legal aid back to its nature of aiding the poor and people under disadvantaged circumstances. Clearly, if socialization could be achieved, it would be ideal, otherwise, legal aid would the responsibility of the State.
The Minister said that “the provisions of Legal Aid Law of Vietnam covers the largest group of legal aid beneficiaries in the world”. To some extents, it is broad in comparison with provisions in international conventions and more broaden than legal aid law in other countries. Our policy is very humane, including many policy beneficiaries. Thus, the Drafting team expects the amended Law should bring the nature of legal aid which is to provide free legal aid for defined people like the poor, policy beneficiaries and vulnerable groups, to be in line with international treaties. Based on that, the Draft Law promulgates that, in general, legal aid beneficiaries should remain as the current Law, besides, we should review and supplement some other beneficiaries. However, we should take into account financial and human resources.
On the quality, the Minister stressed that: “We are trying to make efforts to enable the poor, the policy beneficiaries to enjoin a good quality legal service as normal people do ”; so as to ensure that legal aid beneficiaries are not disadvantaged during accessing to justice. Regarding to the qualification and requirements for legal aid providers (there are about 600 people), most of them meet the almost all criteria as written in the Draft, but provision on job training/probation should be added. Provisions which create conditions and criteria for legal aid organizations and individuals to acquire good profession as lawyers or experienced legal consultants aim to ensure the stability and quality of legal aid.
With regard to the issue of socialization, he said, if social organizations meet the quality requirements of its resources then they are encouraged to join legal aid work. Here, socialization does not nessesarily mean that the State has a fund and allocates it to all other organizations. It means attracting social organizations which satisfy the requirements on quality written in the Law. The new intention here is that we should mobilize social forces to participate in legal aid supported from the State by signing legal aid contracts with qualified organizations and making payments, creating attractive conditions to mobilize experienced and well-known individuals and organizations to diversify service providers.
From the opinion of the Members of the National Assembly, Minister Le Thanh Long affirmed that after this meeting he will make a report to the Government and the Prime Minister to continue further research and complete draft law which will be submite the the National Assembly next year./.