Melbourne Law School - Theses

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    Between rhetoric and reality: the people’s procuracy as a human rights protector in the Vietnamese criminal process
    Pham, Lan Phuong ( 2018)
    The Vietnamese people’s procuracy (viện kiểm sát nhân dân) is a transplanted Soviet institution, which concurrently prosecutes and supervises judicial activities, including criminal investigation and trial. The 2013 Constitution, for the first time, explicitly recognises human rights and entrusts the procuracy with a responsibility to protect them. This thesis critically examines to what extent the procuracy can deliver on its new constitutional human rights protection responsibility. The thesis focuses on the protection of human rights in the criminal process, specifically the right to a fair trial for criminal suspects and defendants. My hypothesis is that the realisation of the human rights protection aspirations in the 2013 Constitution through the work of the procuracy depends not only on how the legislative changes introduced following the passage of the 2013 Constitution match the rhetoric of human rights protection objectives, but also on the performance of the procuracy in practice, both of which are contingent on the priorities and conditions of the environment in which the changes take place - the criminal justice system. To structure my analysis, I drawn on Pitman B. Potter’s institutional capacity framework but adapt it to examine the contextual, legal and institutional factors that shape the procuracy’s performance of its human rights protection responsibility. This thesis argues that, despite the recent human rights and procuracy-focused legislative reforms, there remain fundamental challenges to the procuracy’s protection of human rights, due to the resilience of the socialist essence within the procuracy and the criminal justice system in general. The key cause of the problem is the ambition of the Communist Party to maintain its authority and control, which prevents meaningful reforms from being carried out. Consequently, the underlying conceptions, motivations and structural arrangements of the criminal justice system remain untouched. Being drafted in this context, the law introduces certain changes to advance human rights protection but at the same time falls short of the human rights objectives, with many ambiguities, gaps, and loopholes. The contextual factors, which remain intact, also continue to shape the institutional factors, and thus undermine the protection of human rights. In terms of institutional purpose, there is a strong focus on crime control. Regarding orientation, there is a lack of desire to protect human rights, due to the procuracy’s collaborative relationship with the court and the investigating agency, the bias against suspected persons and defendants, and the disrespect of lawyers. Democratic centralism, and other mechanisms claimed to ensure cohesion within the procuracy, in fact undermine its performance of the rights protection responsibility. Factors of location - different goals, conditions, technical capacity and leadership in the procuracy at different levels and in different geographic areas - lead to uneven practices. Added to these factors are the lack of staff, technical skills and resources.