Hoang Nghia Mai, Permanent Deputy Procurator General of the Supreme People's Procuracy of Viet Nam, discusses a Vietnamese delegation's recent study visit to France and Italy.
The main purpose of the trip was to equip the delegation with the knowledge and information needed for the reform of the procuracy and the criminal procedure code in Viet Nam. Could you tell us how the exchanges worked towards this purpose?
We spent almost all our time researching the reform process of the two countries' prosecution and criminal procedure models. One notable finding was that the reform process in both countries was driven towards the independent and broadened operation of their prosecution systems.
Regarding the relationship between prosecution and investigation authorities, the reforms that have been implemented in the past decades by the two host countries were aimed at strengthening the role and responsibility of the prosecution, especially in the investigation process.
The prosecution is charged with giving investigation directives, monitoring the investigation process and, most importantly directing virtually all criminal procedure steps of the investigation process. The reform process of the procuracy in Viet Nam is also geared into this direction.
What is the most valuable lesson you learned from the trip?
A precious lesson is the importance of building the human resources. It is vital to build strong human resources consisting of professionally excellent and ethical practitioners, working for justice. France and Italy showed us that they strongly understood this while establishing their Supreme Judicial Councils.
As highly effective institutions, the Supreme Judicial Councils work to guarantee the independent operation of the justice sector; furthermore, the councils supervise the recruitment of judges and prosecutors, and the management and monitoring of their conduct. More importantly, the Supreme Judicial Councils play an important role in protecting judges and prosecutors, especially protecting them from external intervention. This is an important aspect which should be given due attention in the process of judicial reform in Viet Nam.
In which areas is the Supreme People's Procuracy (SPP) co-operating with the Justice Partnership Programme (JPP) funded by the EU, Denmark and Sweden?
The JPP has provided support to the SPP since 2010, aiming at the following objectives: improvement of judicial procedures so that they are consistent, democratic, transparent and respect human rights; giving help to judicial supporting organisations and institutions that are in the process of restructuring and the strengthening of the capacity of procurators and supporting personnel to satisfy the demands of the Judicial Reform Strategy.
Over two years, the JPP has extended great support to the SPP in its efforts to draft the bill on the Organisation of the Procuracy and Criminal Code, among many other things.
It can be assured that the support and assistance of the programme play an important part in enabling the SPP to fulfil its task of developing law projects assigned by the NA, and enhance the capacity of the Procuracy.
You have observed the 24/7 on-duty office of the Prosecution Office in France. Do you think that such an office is feasible in Viet Nam?
In France, the delegation had a good opportunity to visit the 24/7 on-duty office of the Public Prosecution. Witnessing the working intensity of the criminal division, we noted that a 24/7 on-duty service would be a key link in the chain to enable the public prosecution to fulfil its tasks more effectively.
In Viet Nam, Procuracies on all levels also have a 24/7 on-duty service as in France. However, it is different from France and Italy because the Procuracy of Viet Nam only plays a collaborating role in the management of criminal investigations. Therefore, there is not enough room for the Procuracy to sufficiently exercise its prosecution responsibilities. Establishment of a leading agency responsible for the management of criminal information and activities is very necessary.
Could you please share with us more about the co-operation between the investigation body and the Public Prosecution in the fight against crime in Viet Nam ?
Similar to France and Italy, Viet Nam has adopted the continental law system and applies the inquisitorial model. This is why the investigation body and the procuracy co-operate very closely in crimin al investigations. The procuracy takes an early role in proceedings, starting from the moment a crime is denounced. It has the competence to decide on important procedural tasks in the investigation phase, such as whether or not to press criminal cases and initiate criminal proceedings against the accused. Judicial reform requires competent bodies to study and propose measures to further strengthen the role and responsibility of the procuracy during the investigation phase, and to use attaching public prosecutions to investigations. Regulations in France and Italy on this issue are valuable experience for Viet Nam in the ongoing process of amending the Criminal Procedure Code.
Do you think that Viet Nam will establish more sustainable and long-term relations with courts and prosecution offices in European countries?
To the furthest extent possible, we want to focus on exchanging experience in the implementation of prosecution functions; co-operation in crime prevention and combating organised crime; training officials; co-operation in scientific research; and inviting experienced/senior experts to attend workshops and seminars in Viet Nam. — VNS