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Cablegate: Deepening Cooperation On Legal Reform: The Ambassador Meets

VZCZCXRO5719
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0152/01 0430955
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 120955Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7150
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 4274
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 000152

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM ECON PGOV KCOR KPAO SOCI PREL VM

SUBJECT: DEEPENING COOPERATION ON LEGAL REFORM: THE AMBASSADOR MEETS
A KEY VIETNAMESE DRIVER OF CHANGE

HANOI 00000152 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: Vietnamese National Assembly (NA) Judicial Affairs
Committee Chairwoman Le Thi Thu Ba discussed with the Ambassador how
the USG and GVN can deepen cooperation on judicial and legal reform
in Vietnam. Laws on enforcement of civil and criminal court
judgments must be revised so that defendants have more rights, Thu
Ba declared, but she also appealed for greater understanding on
Washington's part for the premium the GVN places on stability and
economic development. In a January 18 meeting, Thu Ba explained
that the GVN devised the Law on Criminal Procedure years ago and
needs to revise it with technical assistance. However, she
suggested that the USG wait until the GVN has completed its internal
review of how this law must be reformed before proceeding with
detailed program proposals. Thu Ba said that Vietnamese legal
professionals and legislators also need to learn more about U.S.
laws. The Ambassador stressed the importance of the two governments
finding ways to work together that do not raise red flags within the
GVN. End Summary.

2.(SBU) On January 18, the Ambassador discussed USG-GVN cooperation
in enhancing rule of law and good governance in Vietnam with
National Assembly (NA) Judicial Affairs Committee Chairwoman Le Thi
Thu Ba. Since Vietnam is still a developing country, it has "a lot
of wishes" in the rule of law area, Thu Ba stated. Hanoi needs to
bring its laws into compliance with international norms, for
example, and her Judicial Affairs Committee has been working on
several judicial reform ideas, she explained. For example, the Law
on Criminal Procedure was developed years ago, but needs to be
revised with technical assistance. Vietnam also needs to learn more
about U.S. laws, Thu Ba added.

3. (SBU) The Ambassador responded that the GVN does not seem keen to
reform certain parts of its criminal code, such as Article 88 (which
allows for detention of defendants without formal charges). He said
USG officials should hear from people like Thu Ba on how the USG and
GVN can work together to promote judicial reform in ways that do not
raise red flags within the GVN. Thu Ba said that while help with
reform of the criminal procedure code would be welcome, the GVN is
in the midst of evaluating the code's effectiveness. It therefore
would be "a bit hasty" to propose specific programs in this area,
she explained.

4. (SBU) Vietnam must also reform laws on enforcement of civil and
criminal court judgments so that defendants have more rights, Thu Ba
stated. In Vietnam, the Law on Civil Judgments provides only for
fines and obligations for wrong-doing, she said. In revising this
law, Vietnamese prisons may come under the jurisdiction of the
Ministry of Justice. (Note: Administration of the prisons currently
is under the Ministry of Public Security's purview. End Note.)

5. (SBU) "We want a society that is truly democratic and free," Thu
Ba continued. Vietnam is a country of "low level development" and
is in a "transitional period," she added. She emphasized that the
GVN's first priority is stability, but that its ultimate goal is
building "a true democracy." The Ambassador noted that Vietnam has
undertaken many economic reforms in the last decade and is bound to
undertake even more reforms in the years ahead. The USG stands
ready to help the GVN develop its rule of law, he said.

6. (SBU) Thu Ba explained the newly created National Steering
Committee on Judicial Reform's (SCJR) role in promoting legal reform
in Vietnam. The SCJR is only a provisional body that gives
instructions to relevant GVN bodies, she said. She herself is a
SCJR member and provides input to the body, which comes up with
recommendations by consensus.

7. (SBU) Thu Ba said that the SCJR as well as her committee always
seek out lawyers' input in devising legal reforms. As for the
committee that will oversee a new national bar association, Thu Ba
was unsure exactly what had held up the committee's establishment.
She suggested there were differing opinions as to who should head
the committee as one possible explanation for the delay. (Note: On
January 19, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung approved a plan to
establish a national lawyers' organization as well as the committee
that will oversee this organization. Vietnam's national bar
association is scheduled to commence operations by July, 2008 and a
DRL-funded program by the American Bar Association will, among other
things, help develop the national bar association's code of ethics.
End Note.)

8. (SBU) Thu Ba thanked the Ambassador for his attention to her
committee's work and hoped that over time, as work together on rule
of law deepens, the American and Vietnamese people will have a
greater understanding of each other. She appealed for greater
understanding from Washington for the premium the GVN places on
stability. "We have a mutual interest in stability," she asserted.
Instability would affect not only Vietnam but neighboring countries
as well, she concluded.

9. (SBU) Comment: Thu Ba's statements about the priority of

HANOI 00000152 002.2 OF 002


protecting Vietnam's stability when considering various reform
measures is consistent with what we hear from other GVN leaders.
Given her key position as Chair of the Judicial Affairs Committee,
her openness to working with the USG on legal reform is significant,
and she can be a key interlocutor in identifying areas of
cooperation that are acceptable to the GVN.

MICHALAK

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