Majority of judges who work at district and provincial courts in Vietnam believe that their judgements should be published in order to create a more transparent independent justice system, according to a survey of over 2,500 judges across the country.
The survey was conducted in 2011-12 by the Justice Ministry's Judicial Reform Steering Committee and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is the most comprehensive poll of its kind in Vietnam so far, as its respondent number accounts for almost half of the country's judiciary.
Speaking at a workshop entitled "Court Governance in Vietnam"- where the survey's results were announced - Nguyen Hung Quang, managing director of NHQuang and Associates said it was essential to publicise court proceedings and judgements because it would help improve transparency and make the public more educated about the country's laws.
He called for more public trials and said that there should always be supervision by outsiders, including lawyers, to ensure that adjudication is properly and precisely conducted. "If all hearing developments are subject to the supervision of the people, arbitrary judgements will be limited."
Currently the People's Council - a lawmaking subsidiary of the National Assembly - have the power to supervise the operation of the courts. However, they fulfil this role by principally receiving one-sided reports from the courts and procuracy.
UNDP country director Louise Chamberlain said that publicising judgements would allow judges to be more accountable. Her organisation have worked with the ministry to organise a series of forums prompting discussion between the Government and its development partners about key priorities of the legal and judicial reform agenda.
Deputy Minister of Justice Hoang The Lien said that making the courts more independent and increasing the capacity of staff were key steps in judicial reform.
He added that reforms in other sectors, including investigation and law enforcement, would also help to positively revamp the system.
Seventy per cent of the judges participating in the survey agreed that currently the Supreme People's Court is responsible for law interpretation, without outside influence or supervision.
Over 50 per cent of them stated that audio and visual recordings during adjudication are necessary to ensure transparency, but said that these are not regularly made.
The survey also shows that the budget allocation for courts is granted as a lump sum, and is not calculated to meet specific needs.
Judges therefore have to use their power to evaluate whether this sum is enough to cover expenses such as interpreters, assessors, court appointed lawyers and equipment for mobile adjudication.
"The lump sum allocation mechanism can impact the quality of a trial," Quang said, adding that an increased grant from the Supreme People's Court, alongside funding from the National Assembly and local authorities at district and province levels, could improve the independence of judgements.
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