Legal policy dialogue calls for human rights to be respected in the fight against crime

29 Aug 2013

Ha NoiA legal policy dialogue  held today by the Ministry of Justice and the United Nations Development Programme highlighted the need for human rights to be fully respected in the fight against crime.

During the dialogue, representatives of the Government, the National Assembly and development partners discussed potential amendments to the Penal Code. The UN and other development partners shared international best practice in improving the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, whilst at the same time safeguarding human and civil rights. The discussions covered issues such as juvenile justice, the scope of death penalty provision, the liability of the legal profession, illicit enrichment and bribery in the private sector.


"With globalization, new organized and trans-national crimes such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism, money laundering have emerged, and their impact on Viet Nam is increasing. In order to fight against such crimes, the Penal Code should be amended in a way that meets international standards and creates a favorable legal basis for preventing and fighting against crimes, especially trans-national crimes, in the process of international integration." Mr Hoang The Lien, Deputy Minister of Justice. See more


“It's important to ensure that the penal code is responsive to issues emerging from development and international integration itself and to bring about greater coherence of the Viet Nam criminal law and practices with international laws and human rights standards.” Ms Louise Chamberlain, UNDP Country Director in Viet Nam. See more


“We must improve the criminal procedures that apply to young people, ensuring that the rules are in line with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, Optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the UN Guidelines on Justice in Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime, UN minimum standards for juvenile justice system and other international documents.” Mr Tran Cong Phan, Deputy Chief Prosecutor, Supreme People’s Procuracy. See more


“We remove young people in conflict with the law from their families, friends, schools and education settings and their community and we lock them up or put them away. Is it any wonder that we see the same juveniles appearing before the police, the courts, and detention centers again, and again, and again? Diversion from judicial proceedings, restorative justice approaches and alternatives to deprivation of liberty have all been found to be more effective and more conducive to the realization of children’s rights than detention. They are also in the interests of community safety and have proven to be more cost effective.” Vijaya Ratnam-Raman, UNICEF Legal Specialist.


“The current situation of crime, socio-economic development and diplomatic relations are important factors to determine the improvement of the Penal Code to meet the requirements of crime prevention in the new context. Along with general objectives like better protection of human rights and basic civil rights (of offenders and victims in criminal cases), protection and promotion the development of Viet Nam’s market economy, overcoming existing problems (regarding legislative techniques and contents), another important objective is to amend the Penal Code to match the requirements of crime prevention and combat in the context of integration.” Ms Nguyen Kim Thoa, General Director of the Department on Administrative and Criminal Laws, Ministry of Justice. See more


“One issue of concern to us is the death penalty. We welcome Viet Nam’s plans to further reduce the number of crimes carrying capital punishment. We would like to recall that according to international human rights standards, the death penalty can only be imposed for “most serious crimes” and should therefore not be applied to economic crimes, such as embezzlement of property in Article 278, or drug related offences.” Ms Sascha Muller, Political Section, Embassy of Swizerland, on behalf of Group of Four (Canada, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland)


Ms Zhuldyz Akisheva, UNODC Country Manager: “Review of Criminal policy, Penal and Penal Procedure Codes should focus on the protection of human rights through the means of the criminal justice system. This angle would ensure that relevant policy and legislation don't serve a narrow punitive purpose.” Ms Zhuldyz Akisheva, UNODC Country Manager.


“The system of policies and laws on fighting corruption in Viet Nam have several shortcoming as it is not yet strategic, comprehensive, consistent, timely and inaccessible, therefore unable to meet the requirements of the “war against corruption”. The limited capacity for policy making and institutional building constitutes a major barrier to Viet Nam’s complete performance of its obligations under the Convention as one of its official members. In order to enforce the Convention and, at the same time, better protect the national interest and improve the efficiency of the fight against corruption in Viet Nam, continued improvement and protection of the institutional arrangements play a crucial role in fighting corruption.” Mr Nguyen Cong Hong, Vice Chairman of the National Assembly’s Judicial Committee. See more


“This is a good moment to close the gap of compliance of the Penal Code with the UN Convention against Corruption. Three articles that need special attention are article 20- illicit enrichment; article 21-bribery in the private sector and article 26- liability of legal persons. If there are no sanctions to illicit enrichment, the wrong policy message is sent to the society. How criminal laws address the issue of sanction is important.” Jairo Acuna- Alfaro, Policy Advisor, Public Administration Reform and Anti-Corruption.


“Some issues in relation to the Penal Code provisions on giving and accepting bribes and acting as in intermediaries for bribery still need further study. First of all, regarding illegal benefits or “bribes”, the Viet Nam criminal law defines it to be money, property or other material benefits only, while Article 8 of the Convention provides such a broad concept of “bribe” as “an undue advantage”, meaning both corporeal and incorporeal benefits. Second, the Penal Code does not specify when the undue advantage counts, whether it’s for a public official himself or herself or for event people close to him/her or agencies and organizations of which he/she is a member. These contents need to be revised through the amendment of Penal Code articles on receiving bribes (article 279), offering bribes (article 289) and acting as intermediaries for bribery (article 290).” Mr Tran Vi Dan, Deputy Director of Legal Department, Ministry of Public Security.


"The establishment of specific criminal offences is vital to combating organized crime. However, it is also vital that criminal justice responses to crime are underpinned by an equally strong focus on preventing these crimes from happening in the first place. That's why the purpose of the Convention is to promote cooperation to prevent and combat transnational organized crime. As Viet Nam will consider signing the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, it is right time now to assess the criminal law system in Viet Nam in comparison with this Protocol and fully criminalize smuggling of migrants under the Law of Viet Nam.” Ms Nguyen Nguyet Minh, UNODC Program Specialist. See more


“The National Assembly highly appreciates the scientific and practical nature of the presentations during this policy dialogue. These are very important information sources for the National Assembly in the verification of the Criminal Code amendment project.” Mr Nguyen Van Hien, Chairman of the National Assembly Judicial Committee.

Closing the policy dialogue, Co-Chairs Hoang The Lien and Louise Chamberlain noted the need to emphasize on the quality of the fight against crime and to prioritize enforcement. Mr Hoang The Lien said that all points raised in the dialogue will be considered in the amendment of criminal laws.