Cablegate: Next Steps On Tip in Vietnam: Legal Reform

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 03 HANOI 2323

1. Summary: The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has the outline
of a plan of action to reform TIP legislation in conformity
with UN standards and to deal with the problem more
effectively. The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) is on
board but has some concerns about implementation. The plan
is a direct result of a USG-funded TIP assistance project.
End summary.


2. (U) The USG-supported UNODC project "Preventing and
Combating Trafficking in Persons in Vietnam" is on budget
and on schedule and has delivered its first results: a
completed assessment of the TIP-related legislative and
regulatory framework in Vietnam in comparison with the UN
Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and
Protocols on Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of
Migrants. In a workshop March 15-16, a wide range of
participants discussed the results of the assessment and the
implications for the future. UNODC worked closely with the
MOJ to produce the legal assessment, which was one of the
key outputs of UNODC project FS/VIE/03/R21, funded with USD
288,200 of G/TIP money. UNODC's partners from MOJ carried
out the main work on the assessment, led by Deputy Director
General Nguyen Cong Hong of MOJ's Department for Criminal
and Administrative Legislation.

3. (U) DDG Hong told poloff March 15 that there was high-
level political support for the project within the MOJ
partly because it was consistent with Deputy Prime Minister
Pham Gia Khiem's instructions to the interagency community
in September 2003 (reftel) but also because the project was
compatible with Vietnam's larger legal reform goals. As MOJ
Vice Minister Hoang The Lien said at the beginning of the
workshop, "trafficking in persons has become a painful
problem that the state and party have recognized and are
committed to resolving."


4. (U) Troels Vester, program officer at UNODC with
responsibility for the R21 project, said the wide range of
relatively senior officials who attended the workshop was
indicative of GVN support for the initiative. Represented
at at least the Departmental Deputy Director General level
were: MOJ; the Criminal Police and Legal Departments of MPS;
the Hanoi People's Court; the Border Army; the Vietnam
Lawyers' Association; Vietnam National University; the
Department for Social Evils Prevention of the Ministry of
Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA); the Committee
for Population, Family, and Children; the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs; and the Vietnam Tourism Administration. In
addition to GVN officials, there were many representatives
from international organizations and NGOs, including UNICEF,
the ILO, IOM, the Asia Foundation, and the French-Vietnamese
Legal House. At the closing dinner, Deputy Director General
of the General Department of Police Major General Cao Ngoc
Oanh praised the project, endorsed its stated goals, and
pledged police cooperation on trafficking in persons.

--------------------------------------------- --

5. (U) The legal assessment reviewed Vietnamese law in the
context of the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized
Crime and Protocols on Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling
of Migrants and identified each area where Vietnam needed to
change or enhance current law to improve its effort to
combat TIP. According to Hoang Van Lai, National Project
Coordinator for the project (and simultaneously an MPS
Colonel assigned to Vietnam's Interpol office), the key
recommendation/conclusion of the legal assessment was that
"there is a need for a comprehensive system of legal
instruments as well as social, economic measures and common
efforts of society to prevent the potential for and
eliminate the root causes of the phenomenon of trafficking,
and to create safe conditions for the victims. In addition,
because of the transnational nature of trafficking, the
prosecution of traffickers cannot take place solely at the
national level, but requires bilateral and multilateral
cooperation among relevant national law enforcement
authorities. Therefore, there is a greater need to
harmonize relevant domestic laws and other regional and
international legal bases to create conditions for regional
and international cooperation in this matter."

6. (U) In his presentation during the workshop, DDG Hong
identified the six points of focus that the GVN had taken
from the assessment as a kind of "action plan" for legal
reform related to TIP. They were:
- Harmonize Vietnamese law with relevant international
- Agree on a definition of trafficking and specific criminal
acts of trafficking as well as a mechanism for interagency
cooperation to allow the investigation and prosecution of
- Establish the legal authority for the protection of
witnesses and victims of trafficking;
- Facilitate the repatriation and reintegration of victims
of international trafficking and resolve problems relating
to legal jeopardy for trafficking victims;
- Promote international and regional cooperation to combat
- Address the problems at the source of trafficking in
persons: poverty and difficult economic circumstances.

7. (U) DDG Hong told poloff that, of the six points of
focus, some could be dealt with by "closing gaps" in the
Penal Code. This would be a "quick" solution and could be
accomplished by means of a circular from the Standing
Committee of the National Assembly rather than full
amendment of existing legislation, he said. Other changes
would be "medium term" and would involve creating or
changing legislation directly affecting TIP; this could
happen "reasonably quickly, perhaps in 6-18 months," Hong
added. He added that deeper structural changes - resolving
contradictions within the legal code, negotiating legal
assistance treaties with other countries, or ameliorating
the socioeconomic root causes of trafficking - were problems
requiring a "long-term approach." Despite the different
timeframes for action, Hong promised that "we are working on
all of these problems."


8. (U) The mood at the workshop was optimistic and positive,
with the exception of Tran Dinh Nha, Director General of
MPS' Legal Department. Nha was critical of Vietnam's past
efforts to implement international conventions and
agreements that it had signed and ratified, and said that if
Vietnam's accession to the UN Convention Against
Transnational Organized Crime were to have any effect at
all, the legislative changes would have to be accompanied by
operational changes, a political commitment to
implementation, and dedication of scarce resources to the
problem. Despite the cautionary tone of his remarks, Nha
later said that he still believed that the legal assessment
was useful and necessary, and that signing and ratifying the
UN Convention and associated protocols were positive steps.
"If Vietnam signs the protocol it may not be implemented,"
he noted, "but if Vietnam does not sign the protocol, it
certainly will not be implemented."

9. (U) Comment: UNODC, working with a Canadian legal
consultant, facilitated MOJ's comprehensive program for
legal reform with this assessment. The associated workshop
brought together the rest of the interagency players and
appears to have achieved their buy-in to MOJ's plan. MPS'
concurrence with the plan and the participation in the
workshop of the Legal DG as well as the head of MPS' new
anti-trafficking unit will help ensure that MOJ's reforms
will have interagency support, since MPS has the lead in the
interagency TIP effort. Post will forward a copy of the
English language version of the assessment, as well as a
matrix of the areas identified for reform and recommended
solutions, to EAP/BCLTV, EAP/RSP, INL/AAE, and

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