International Workshop “Fair trial in criminal proceedings: International experience and implications for Vietnam”

On September 5 - 6, 2019, at the Pan Pacific Hotel, No. 1 Thanh Nien Street, Hanoi, the Institute of State and Law in collaboration with the Rule of Law Programme Asia, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Institute of the Federal Republic Germany (KAS Institute) organized an international workshop "Fair trial in criminal proceedings: International experience and implications for Vietnam".

The workshop attracted the attendance of more than 150 domestic and international delegates and researchers.


The organizers of the workshop were attended by Ms. Susan Chan, officer of the Rule of Law programme Asia, KAS Institute; Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Duc Minh, Director of the Institute of State and Law; Dr. Pham Thi Thuy Nga, Deputy Director of the Institute of State and Law.


Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Duc Minh


In the opening speech at the conference, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Duc Minh believed that the right to a fair trial is one of the most fundamental and important human rights, and has been recognized and protected by international law and many national laws. Clause 2 Article 31 of the 2013 Constitution of Vietnam stated: A defendant must be tried timely, equally and publicly by courts within the time provided by law. The 2015 Penal Code also stipulated many principles to ensure fair trial such as: presumption of innocence; double jeopardy; the right to counsel; judges and jurors conduct trials independently and observe only the law; ensure the litigation in the trial; ... He hoped that at this workshop, both domestic and international scholars and managers can discuss the difficulties, challenges, issues in ensuring a fair trial in countries; domestic and international factors affecting fair trial; national and international experiences on the conditions required for a fair trial; etc.


The following speech was made by Mr. Peter Girke, Chief Representative of KAS Institute Office in Vietnam. He expressed his desire for the presentations as well as insights of international and Vietnamese experts to know how the current trial process in their respective countries takes place. He believed that, from the provisions of international law, an independent, unbiased court is a fundamental element for the trial process to be transparent and fair.


Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Chi (Vietnam National University)


The first session of the workshop was entitled "Fair trial in international law and Vietnamese law". The opening presentation was made by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Chi (Faculty of Law, Vietnam National University), "Fair trial under international law and Vietnam's criminal procedure law". The presentation focused on clarifying the notion of fairness, the right to fair trial in criminal proceedings, analysis of international law and Vietnamese law on the right to fair trial.


The following presentation was from MP. Nguyen Tien Duc (State and Law Institute) on the topic "International law on the right to fair trial". In essence, the right to a fair trial is not a single right but a bundle of rights with the goal to ensure justice in the trial process. This right existed throughout the entire proceedings, including before, during and after the trial. The presentation mainly examined the notions and conclusions of the Human Rights Committee (HRC, ICCPR enforcement monitoring agency) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR, ECHR enforcement monitoring agency) regarding: the right to access and equality before courts and tribunals; the right to be tried by competent, independent and impartial tribunals established by law; right to a public trial; presumption of innocence; equal rights in litigation and other human rights in fair trial.


After two presentations, the workshop conducted a discussion with questions regarding how Vietnamese law regulates to ensure timely trial; principles and trial processes against juvenile offenders; ... The Vietnam Criminal Procedure Law had specific regulations on time limits in each stage of the proceeding process. These regulations reflected the timeliness of the trial.


The topic of the second session of the workshop was "Ensuring fair trial in criminal procedure". Opening the session was the presentation of Prof. Masahisa Deguchi (Faculty of Law, Ritsumeikan University, Japan), "Fair trial in Japanese criminal procedure and implications for Vietnam". The author presented on the plea bargain and the Supervision Committee on the prosecution activities in Japanese criminal proceedings. In particular, plea bargain was established in June 2018 and was one of the reforms of the criminal justice system to improve and diversify the evidence-gathering process and to support the trial process. Accordingly, the accused/defendant agreed to provide the prosecutor with evidences or testimonies related to the charge or investigation of certain crimes committed by a third party. In turn, the prosecutor agreed to drop or reduce the criminal charges to that person.


Prof. Masahisa Deguchi (left) and Mr. Jinman Lee (right)


Next, Mr. Jinman Lee (Judge of the High Court of Korea) presented his presentation on "Ensuring a fair trial in criminal proceedings in Korea". The content of the presentation affirmed the essential and important conditions for a fair trial were that the judges must be independent, competent and impartial. They must uphold the compliance with the principles of procedure and must have the courage when declaring anything inconsistent with this principle. Judges also need to be persevering to hold their point of presumption of innocence.


During this session, the workshop also listened to the presentations:

- Ensuring the right to defense, litigation and appeal in criminal trial process in Vietnam;

- Ensuring the right to a fair trial in the pre-trial stage of criminal cases in Vietnam;

- The right to equality before the Court and publicly tried by an independent, impartial Court: Practice of the Philippines and implications for Vietnam;

- Investigation agency, People's Procuracy in ensuring fair trial in criminal procedure in Vietnam.


The workshop received discussions and exchanges from researchers on issues related to: the principle of determining the truth of the case; plea bargain; defendants defend themselves and the opportunity for them to access to lawyers; issues of abusing force while on duty in the Philippines...


On the morning of September 6, 2019, the conference continued with its third session titled "The role of the participating subjects in ensuring fair trial in criminal proceedings". The opening presentation was "Restriction of human rights in Criminal Proceedings: Indonesia’s Practices and implications for Vietnam" by Prof. Heribertus Jaka Triyana (Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia). The presentation analyzed the models and trends of legal issues in practice on restricting human rights in the Criminal Procedure and their relationship with foreigners. Legal gaps, bias, overlapping institutions, as well as conflicts still exist, reducing the value of justice. The author presented real-life incidents related to discrimination, racism, freedom and personal security. These were challenges and opportunities to adjust human rights issues to better access justice.



Next, Dr. Dinh The Hung (Institute of State and Law) presented his presentation "Exercising the presumption of innocence in Vietnam’s criminal proceedings". In the system of principle of the criminal procedure, presumption of innocence played a very important role and was recognized as one of the basic principles and the main pillar of the Criminal Procedure Law system. The 2015 Criminal Procedure Code officially recognized this principle in Article 13: “An accused person is deemed innocent until his guilt is evidenced according to the procedures and formalities as defined in this Law and a Court passes a valid conviction. If grounds for conviction, as per the procedures and formalities in this Law, do not suffice, competent procedural authorities and persons shall adjudge the accused person to be not guilty".


To ensure the implementation of the principle of presumption of innocence, the author proposed some solutions:

- Continue to improve the model of criminal procedures in Vietnam in the direction of improving the litigation in the proceeding process;

- Completing the legal principle to not only emphasizes the legality of the judicial activities of the judgment, but also needs to ensure the legal consequences for the violations of the law;

- Amending a number of provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code on attestation and evidence;

- Supplementing regulations on investigative measures.


During this session, the workshop also had two other presentations:

- Rights and due process: The Singapore Court’s role in ensuring a fair trial;

- The role of attorneys and accused in ensuring fair trial.


At the end of the conference, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Duc Minh expressed his thanks to the Rule of Law programme Asia, KAS Institute for helping and working closely with the Institute of State and Law to organize this workshop. He thanked the international guests, managers and researchers for their enthusiastic participation and contribution to the success of the conference. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Duc Minh also briefly summarized the results of activities that took place in three sessions of the workshop.