Viet Nam strengthening minors’ access to justice
UNICEF supports Viet Nam Supreme People’s Court to address child sexual abuse cases
Ha Noi, 24 July 2019 – A Consultation Workshop on a draft Judicial Resolution of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) on sexual violence, especially sexual violence against minors, was held today in Ha Noi by the SPC and UNICEF. Chaired by SPC Chief Justice Nguyen Hoa Binh, the workshop delivered a platform for the judiciary, law practitioners and experts to examine and define the key elements of criminal sexual offences and measures judges can take to make court proceedings more child friendly to facilitate better implementation of the law.
Sexual abuse and exploitation against minors is of growing concern in Viet Nam. Between 2013-2017, approximately 8,100 child sexual abuse cases were brought to the courts. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. In recent years, Viet Nam has made considerable progress in strengthening national laws to address violence against minors. However, some forms of sexual violence are not clearly defined in the Penal Code nor in alignment with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OPSC), both of which Viet Nam has ratified.
“How sexual offences are defined in legislation can directly affect how investigators, prosecutors and judges respond to and handle reported cases of sexual violence, which in turn will impact on whether girl and boy survivors of sexual violence and their families will step forward to demand justice,” said Friday Achilefu Nwaigwe, UNICEF Viet Nam OIC Deputy Representative.
At the workshop, UNICEF child justice expert Shelley Casey shared international best practices in responding to child sexual abuse cases as well as presented UNICEF’s comments to the resolution.
Alongside the dialogue, UNICEF shared an advocacy package outlining key gaps in the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, with recommendations for short-term reforms achieved through the judicial resolution and long-term reforms requiring amendments to these two pieces of legislation.
Chief Justice Nguyen Hoa Binh emphasized the importance of open consultations from wide-range of professionals, experts, relevant parties and the public to ensure the draft judicial guidance was attuned to reality in Viet Nam and effectively responded to the challenges and bottlenecks in handling sexual violence against minors. He endorsed UNICEF’s recommendations to broaden the scope of the resolution for strengthened protection of minors from sexual exploitation. He also expressed confidence that the draft resolution could benefit from international good practices, including adjusting the courtroom environment, modifying the style of questioning, and prohibition of cross-examination of minors by the defendant to reduce child trauma as well as improve the quality and accuracy of the minor’s testimony.
This workshop is part of UNICEF’s continued support to the Government of Viet Nam to strengthen minors’ access to justice, especially for girl and boy survivors of sexual abuse to receive a just and speedy outcome in line with Viet Nam’s international commitments on children’s rights.