Addressing at the NA’s discussion on the draft law, Minister of Justice Le Thanh Long stated that the Government expects the amended lawwill confirm the nature of legal aid, which is the State’s responsibility,and improve the quality of legal aid services so that beneficiaries canenjoy good quality services as normal people do. In addition, the amendment shouldguaranteethe feasibility of the draft law, which means it must be appropriate to the existing conditions, improve the quality and efficiency of the state budget and be in line with international commitments of Viet Nam. On this basis, we have reviewed and extended the scope of legal aid beneficiaries and set requirements to legal aid-providing individuals and organizations.
The legal aid procedures stipulated bythe current draft have been improved significantly by, for example, extending and accepting all forms of legal aid requests. Accordingly, the requests for legal aid can be filed directly, by post or email and must be proceeded even if there is a lack ofpapers providing the eligibility for legal aid.
According to Minister Le Thanh Long, there are 6 subjects qualified to belegal aid beneficiaries under the current Law on Legal aid and this number is increased to 14 in the draft law submitted to the NA. Those who are currently eligible for legal aid in accordance with the law remain unchanged. According to preliminary statistics, if we extend the scope of legal aid beneficiaries as specified by the draft law, the number of people eligible to receivelegal aidcompared with the current lawwill rise from 17 million to 31 million. “The essence of this regulation is derived from the principle that legal aid beneficiaries should be those who arevulnerable and unable to afford financially. This is also fully compliant with the provisions of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) andthe International Convention on the Rights of the Child", the Minister emphasized. He also added that on the basis ofthe criteria of legal beneficiaries which must include financial difficulty, the current socio-economic context of Viet Nam and the requirement for good quality legal aid services while our resources are still limited, the draft law submitted to the NA has stipulated as abovementioned.
According to the NAStanding Committee, the subjects of legal aid beneficiaries should be identified based on specific principles and criteria in line with the Party’s policies, current laws and socio-economicconditions of Viet Nam and guarantee the feasibility of the draft law. Accordingly, the draft law has been reviewed and revised to ensure the inheritance of the provisions on legal aid beneficiaries under the 2006 Law on Legal aid, other relevant legal documents and be appropriate to the socio-economic condition of Viet Nam. Beside, the draft supplements 02 new subjects of legal aid beneficiaries (including those who are near poverty and accused andvictims of domestic violence suffering financial difficulty). The provision on legal aid beneficiaries of the draft law, according to the NA Standing Committee, aims to guarantee the consistency of the legal system, the feasibility of the use of the state and social resources in conducting legal aid qualitatively and effectively. Once the socio-economic condition is favorable, further research will be undertaken to supplement other subjects to be legal aid beneficiaries to the Law on Legal aid.
Delegate To Van Tam, from Kon Tum Province, agreed to the provision on legal aid beneficiaries of the draft law. However, it is inadequate to supplement only those who are near poverty and accused yetpoor people who are victims of criminal cases to be eligible for legal aid. Therefore, Mr. Tam proposed, it is necessary to consider supplementingthese people to be legal aid beneficiaries when they request. Delegate Vuong Ngoc Ha, from Ha Giang Province, concerned that “as we extend the scope of legal beneficiaries to 7 subjects as stipulated by the draft, there will be a huge pressure on legal aid agencies of the mountainous provinces” because the legal aid for legal proceedings itself is a burden, not to mention out-of-court representation and legal counselling. Agreeing with the Drafting team onadding the provision on further financial support, Delegate Ha expected that the Government and the Ministry of Home Affairs will immediately join the Ministry of Justice to calculate resources in order to ensure that the new law will be enforceable in mountainous areas.
Sharing the same concern about legal beneficiaries, Delegate Pham Thi Thanh Thuy, from Thanh Hoa Province, stated that the scope of legal beneficiaries specified by the draft is narrower compared with the current law. For example, it is unfeasible to stipulate that peoplewith disabilities and victims of human trafficking under the Law on the Prevention of and ombat against human trafficking and Law on Persons with disabilities must have financial difficulty. Therefore, Ms. Ha proposed to remain theprovision on legal beneficiaries as prescribed by the current law.
During the discussion, many delegates expected to extend legal beneficiaries. Ms. Ngan Phuong Loan, a delegate from Lang Son Province proposed to add victims of assault to be legal aid beneficiaries because they are vulnerable people who have financial difficulty and cannot afford the expense of legal services. Moreover, these victims have to suffer huge damage on health, honor and dignity. Delegate Duong Tan Quan, from Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, proposed to remove the requirement on financial difficultyto people with disabilities, parents, spouses, children of and those who raised martyrs.
On the proposals to extend legal aid beneficiaries, Delegate Nguyen Manh Cuong, from Quang Binh Province, stated this is an important regulation and should be extended as much as possible. However, Mr. Cuong added, the extension should be undertaken reasonably and with resources, guarantee the feasibility and be appropriate to the current conditions of our country.
“At present, the quality of legal aid service is still limited and we still consider it a second class service because what conducted for free and pro-bono is usually assumed that its quality is low. In addition, we used to be greatly funded by foreign donors, however, since we have become a middle-income country, our resources are getting limited. Therefore, it is vitally important to carefully consider the extension of legal beneficiaries in order to ensure the quality of the services will be improved”, Delegate Cuong said and expressed his approvalfor the scope of legal aid beneficiaries as the explaination of the NA Standing Committee.