Online seminar on “Asset recovery in corruption cases” with the Vietnamese Ministry of Justice in Hanoi and Berlin

During the online seminar in Berlin: Tobias Oelsner (left), Presiding Judge at the Regional Court of Berlin; Marion Schwark (right), Public Prosecutor at the Berlin Public Prosecutor’s Office; Anke Friedel-Nguyen (on the right at the rear), interpreter
During the online seminar in Berlin: Tobias Oelsner (left), Presiding Judge at the Regional Court of Berlin; Marion Schwark (right), Public Prosecutor at the Berlin Public Prosecutor’s Office; Anke Friedel-Nguyen (on the right at the rear), interpreter

On 26 May 2020, IRZ organised its first joint event with the Vietnamese Ministry of Justice this year, with an online seminar on “Asset recovery in corruption cases” in Hanoi and Berlin. The seminar was aimed at:

  • officers working in the Enforcement Department at the Ministry of Justice,
  • judges,
  • public prosecutors,
  • financial investigators,
  • enforcement officers and
  • representatives of the Law School.

The fight against corruption is a very high priority in Vietnam at the moment and party leaders are calling for the reform of the current legal situation and law enforcement practice. The Ministry of Justice is working on a concept to make asset recovery in corruption cases more effective and has asked IRZ for support in this matter. German experiences in this field are of particular interest. And so, in consultation with the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, this subject was included in the annual programme for 2020, as part of the German-Vietnamese dialogue on the rule of law.

Due to the easing of contact restrictions relating to the coronavirus pandemic in Vietnam, it was possible to bring together around 30 participants in a seminar room and the online event went smoothly using state-of-the-art technology.
The Vietnamese Ministry of Justice was represented by its Vice Minister, Mai Luong Khoi. Joining the online seminar from Berlin as IRZ experts were Public Prosecutor Marion Schwark from the Berlin Public Prosecutor’s Office and Judge Tobias Oelsner, Presiding Judge at the Regional Court of Berlin. They discussed the following topics with the Vietnamese participants:

  • the basics of law enforcement in civil law,
  • the securing and seizure of assets originating from unlawful acts,the reform of laws on asset recovery passed on 1 July 2017, in particular independent confiscation under article 76a of the German penal code,
  • issues of responsibility and effective cooperation with the authorities.

The participants were very grateful for the valuable insight into the German system, since the effective recovery of assets is a powerful weapon in the fight against increasing levels of corruption. Due to shortcomings in this area in Vietnam, cooperation in this field is set to continue, allowing significant improvements to be made to the legal situation and the law enforcement practice in future.

Two workshops on the practical application of the new Code of Criminal Procedure

During the workshop in Hanoi on 27 and 28 February 2019
During the workshop in Hanoi on 27 and 28 February 2019

In cooperation with the Vietnam Bar Federation (VBF) and supported by the German Federal Bar (BRAK), the IRZ organised two workshops in Nha Trang on 24 and 25 February and in Hanoi on 26 and 27 February on the practical application of the Vietnamese Code of Criminal Procedure, which came into force in 2018. The IRZ had already provided advice on its drafting during the reform process.

The two IRZ experts and Berlin specialist lawyers for criminal law, Nikolai Venn (Freyschmidt Frings Pananis Venn law firm) and Ursus Koerner von Gustorf (Hensel and Koerner von Gustorf law firm) gave a lecture on both seminar days, covering the following topics:

  • Position and function of the defence counsel;
  • preparation of the main hearing and definition of the defence goal;
  • technical preparation and use of electronic files;
  • the client’s statement on the facts of the case;
  • hearing of witnesses;
  • hearing of experts and
  • final speech of the defence and the prosecution.

Their Vietnamese colleagues gave an overview of their initial experiences with the new Code of Criminal Procedure and its practical implementation (which is in some cases still deficient).

The participants discussed the latest positive developments and praised the major innovations in the course of the reform: the presumption of innocence, the right to inspect the files, and in particular the defence counsel’s right to file a motion to take evidence.

It was repeatedly pointed out that lawyers in their function as agent of the administration of justice play an important role in protecting citizens’ and human rights, and that they have to come up to this moral authority and fight for their rights according to this self-concept. It was said that the presentations of the German experts were very encouraging and showed that the new regulations provide a lot of potential which has to be leveraged now.

Workshops held in Hanoi and Da Nang on substantive and procedural criminal law

Workshop in Da Nang
Workshop in Da Nang

In June 2018, the IRZ together with the Vietnamese Institute for Human Rights (VIHR) organised workshops focussing on criminal law on 18 and 19 June in Hanoi and on 21 and 22 June in Da Nang. The workshops on substantive and procedural criminal law were held as part of a project supported by the German Foreign Office. The workshops were aimed at the definitive structuring of constitutional provisions.

Following an extensive lead time, a new penal code and reformed criminal procedural law have been in force in Vietnam since 1 February 2018. These amendments are part of efforts to ensure respect for human rights guarantees and basic rights since the new constitution came into force in 2014.

These challenges were dealt with during both events, in which lectures by Vietnamese and German speakers from the academic and business worlds created an opportunity for a forum of up-to-date exchanges. The speakers involved in the events included:

  • Prof. Dr. Tuong Duy Kien, Director of the VIHR,
  • Prof. Dr. Georg-Friedrich Güntge, Senior Public Prosecutor at the Schleswig-Holstein office of the public prosecutor general and honorary law professor at the University of Kiel and
  • Dr. Matthias Hartwig, an academic at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law.

The lectures dealt with the new regulations, such as the presumption of innocence or the video recording of hearings. The delimitation of powers of the court, public prosecutors, police and defendants was also an intensely discussed topic. Since the public prosecutor's office in Vietnam is not only responsible for criminal investigations, but also ensures the supervision of compliance with procedural regulations at court, many practical issues concerning the exercising of the public prosecutor’s duties were also discussed. Various Vietnamese speakers gave a self-critical presentation of definitive suggestions for improvement, whilst their German colleagues explained the requirements in accordance with international and German law.

All those involved in the workshops displayed a clear awareness of the need for measures to be implemented at various levels. At these meetings, the changes to the consistent observation of human rights in criminal law and criminal procedural law were discussed constructively from various perspectives.