Communist Party Online Newspaper:Viet Nam’s first ever justice index assesses justice and equality

(CPV) – Viet Nam’s first ever empirical justice index released on October 3rd 2013 revealed that State agencies inefficiency in meeting basic legal requirements and addressing civil dispute and administrative complaints encourages some citizens to seek redress outside the justice system.

The justice Index 2012, jointly conducted by the Viet Nam Lawyers’ Association (VLA), the Centre for Community Support Development Studies (CECODES), with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) support, built on the actual experiences of more than 5,000 people from a cross-section of society living in 21 provinces and cities across the country.

The index captured people’s opinions and assessment of State institutions’ performance in ensuring justice and fundamental rights for citizens.

Mr. Pham Quoc Anh, President of the VLA, said: “The Justice Index report accurately captures people’s ability to access justice. It also offers practical policy recommendations to address shortcomings in ensuring justice for people from all sections of society.”

His comments were echoed by CECODES Director Dr. Dang Ngoc Dinh, who said: “This index is an important initiative which reflects people’s aspirations of a just and democratic society being pursued by the State of Viet Nam.”

“The Justice Index introduces a new approach to the assessment of legal and judicial reform processes,” said Mr. Bakhodir Burkhanov, UNDP Deputy Country Director in Viet Nam. “We hope that the index can provide a useful reference for further reforms towards making the legal and judicial system more effective and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people.”

The Justice Index 2012 revealed the extent of some State agencies’ inefficiencies, with one-fifth of all citizens’ complaints on social entitlement policy and environmental pollution having received no feedback from appropriate State agencies.

At the same time, the settlement of approximately half of all land disputes and environmental complaints were unresolved pending State action and it often took State agencies a longer time to handle administrative complaints than allowed by law.

In fact, the average time taken to address an administrative complaint ranged from 17 to 27 months, depending on the type of individual or household enquiry.

According to nearly half of the surveyed people, land dispute were the most common type of dispute and a ‘disturbing’ issue in their localities. Up to 38% of land disputes are related to land use rights certificates, comprehension and reallocation.

The surveyed people revealed that existing land use regulations and opaque local land use plans have led to citizens’ distrust of land tenure security and resistance to long-term land investments.

The Justice Index 2012 also found inequality in opportunities to realize fundamental rights and to participate in the Constitution reform process, especially among socially disadvantaged groups such as people with low education, poor people and women.

Four-of-out-10 citizens ‘had never heard of’ or ‘did not know about’ the Constitution. Of those who knew, 23% were unaware of the ongoing Constitutional revision process.

People voiced demands for a responsive, efficient, reliable, professional and accessible justice system with a high level of integrity. The survey underscored that judicial reform and enhanced law enforcement were essential to achieve a higher level of human development in Viet Nam.

The Justice Index 2012 looks into five dimensions of the administration of justice and rule of law as perceived and experienced by the people, in particular accessibility, equity, integrity, reliability and efficiency along with a guarantee of fundamental rights./.

Khac Kien