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.

5th International Conference on Comparative Law in Hanoi

The 5th International Conference on Comparative Law took place in Hanoi from 8 to 10 September on the topic of "The Rule of Law and independent Justice". The conference was organised by the IRZ and the Vietnamese Institute of Human Rights. Attendees included the lawyer and writer, Professor Bernhard Schlink, the expert in constitutional law, Professor Bodo Pieroth, and Dr. Thomas Flint, a judge at the Federal Social Court of Germany.

Since 2011, the IRZ has been organising conferences on topics concerning constitutional law in cooperation with the Vietnamese Institute of Human Rights, which is a member of the National Academy of Politics and Public Administration. The objective of the IRZ is to help support human rights in connection with legal reforms in Vietnam and conduct projects aimed at strengthening the ongoing discussions on respecting human rights.

This year's conference, which took place from 8 to 10 September 2015, focussed on the requirements for the constitutional organisation and institutional independence of the justice system as a basic aspect of protecting human rights. Vietnam has long been focussed on the objective of becoming a constitutional state and has initiated many legal reform projects.

It is worth emphasizing the amendment to the constitution with effect from 1 January 2014. This led to successful reforms in many areas of law, accompanied by lively debate amongst those applying the law, as well as amongst citizens. The main topics of discussion were:

  • Division of powers
  • Protecting citizens' rights in relation to the state
  • Further legal training of judges
  • State liability
  • The authority of supervisory mechanisms

In addition, Professor Schlink and Professor Pieroth took a lecture at the Law School in Hanoi on the Principles of Proportionality (Schlink) and on the Federal Constitutional Court (Pieroth), followed by discussions with lecturers and students.

Professor Schlink has made a name for himself not only as a legal expert, but also as an author. His novel "The Reader" was made into a successful film in 2008 and has been translated into more than 55 languages, including Vietnamese. The German Embassy in Hanoi therefore took the opportunity to show the film and arrange a discussion afterwards between the audience and the author, in which many young Vietnamese people in particular took part with enthusiasm.