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Opening Remarks by UNDP Country Director, Ms. Louise Chamberlain at legal policy dialogue “Criminal Policy in Viet Nam in the Context of International Integration”

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Speaker: UNDP Country Director, Ms. Louise Chamberlain
Date:       Thursday, 29 August 2013
Event:     Legal Policy Dialogue “Criminal Policy in Viet Nam in the Context of International Integration”
Venue:    Melia Hotel, 44B Ly Thuong Kiet, Hanoi, Viet Nam

Mr. Nguyễn Văn Hiện, Chair of Judiciary Committee, National Assembly,
Mr. Hoàng Thế Liên, Vice Minister of Justice,
Distinguished representatives of the National Assembly, Supreme People’s Procuracy, Ministry of Justice and other justice institutions,
Country Manager of UNODC in Viet Nam, Ms. Zhuldyz Akisheva
Colleagues from international development partner organisations and civil society organizations;
Ladies and gentlemen;
Good morning and a warm welcome to you all !

I would like to welcome you warmly to the Policy Dialogue today as part of UNDP’s ongoing cooperation with the Ministry of Justice on the implementation of the legal system development strategy, and the judicial reform strategy in Viet Nam. This periodic legal policy dialogue by now has established itself as an important forum for discussion between the Government and development partners on priorities in the legal and judicial reform agenda.

I would like to acknowledge the Ministry of Justice’s very proactive approach in preparing for revisions of the Criminal Code in Viet Nam. The UN in Viet Nam supports the Ministry and other justice institutions in reforming the criminal justice system with a view to improve its effectiveness and safeguard human rights and civil rights in Viet Nam.

We are meeting here today to discuss criminal policy in the context of Viet Nam’s ambitions for international integration. The backdrop is deepening international economic, political and social cooperation – much of which will require  that Viet Nam’s justice system is up to date and effective in delivering justice. There is an imperative to ensure that the penal code is responsive to new phenomena resulting 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Criminal law has important implications for the realization and manifestation of fundamental human rights. In respect of the Right to Life as per the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the United Nations welcomes in particular that the application scope of the death penalty provision, currently contained in 22 crimes of the Criminal Code, is one area of the code that will be reviewed.

Another critical area of review is to better promote a distinctive system of juvenile justice for children, especially ensuring specific positive rehabilitative, rather than punitive, aims, in line with the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This review provides Viet Nam the opportunity to not only ensure its criminal justice system meets international children’s rights standards, but also to ensure that children are protected as victims or witnesses of crime.
A third area of growing importance is the opportunity to close the gaps between the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) with laws and practice in Viet Nam. Comparative experiences show that the countries most successful in addressing corruption have clearly and comprehensively criminalized corrupt acts. Viet Nam has not yet adopted the international legal framework with regard to provisions on Illicit enrichment, criminalizing bribery in the private sector, and on the liability of legal persons, which are critical elements of any country strategy to effectively combat corruption.

A fourth issue that will be addressed in our dialogue here today, is that Viet Nam is both a source and transit country of human trafficking. Some 80% of trafficking victims are women and children.  Improving compliance with the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime  and its Protocols would entail criminalization of participation in an organized criminal group and of laundering of proceeds of crime and adopting a clear definition of human trafficking.

Last but not least, the theme of this workshop lends itself to discussing how legislative changes can help increase access to justice for both criminal offenders and their victims. Let me just give two examples of why this is important. Firstly, according to the Supreme Court’s statistics, only 20% of criminal offenders have access to lawyers; in other words, four out of five have no effective counsel. Secondly, a UN-commissioned study showed that less than one in a hundred cases of severe domestic violence resulted in a criminal conviction. Such data shows there is scope to enhance access to justice. It also suggests that the amendment of the criminal code should be reviewed together with other laws addressing both substantive and procedural norms.   

In closing, I hope that our discussions today will produce clear recommendations on ways to further reform criminal policy and its enforcement, and help to identify the gaps and solutions to renovate justice institutions in respect to civil and human rights in Viet Nam.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish all participants a successful and productive meeting, and I thank you for your attention.