Vietnam justice index released

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Vietnam's first ever empirical justice index, which captured people's opinions and assessments of State institutional performance in ensuring justice and fundamental rights for citizens, was released Thursday.

The Justice Index 2012, jointly produced by the Vietnam Lawyers' Association (VLA) and the Centre for Community Support Development Studies (CECODES) with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) support, was built on the actual experiences of 5,045 people from a cross-section of society living in 21 provinces and cities across the country.

The index 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.

"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 Vietnam.

"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."

According to UNDP, 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 disputes were the most common type of dispute and a "˜disturbing' issue in their localities.

Up to 38 percent of land disputes are related to land use rights certificates, compensation 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 out of 10 citizens "˜had never heard of' or "˜did not know about' the Constitution. Of those who knew, 23 percent were unaware of the ongoing constitutional revision process.

The survey also found that the population groups suffering discrimination by state agencies and officers are homosexual people and people with HIV/AIDS.

A sub-indicator measuring "professional conduct of traffic police" shows that traffic police in Quang Nam and Tay Ninh provinces are most appreciated by local people for their professional conduct, while the province deemed to have the least professional traffic police is Hai Duong.

On-the-ground analysis and research findings do not indicate a relationship between economic growth and protection of justice for all. Da Nang is an exception among the three cities surveyed, demonstrating high economic growth and also featuring the leading Justice Index 2012 ranking.

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are placed in the median tier (ranking at 12/21 and 13/21 respectively from the top down). Overall a comparison between the GDP 2011 and the Justice Index 2012 also shows no correlation.

The survey underscored that judicial reform and enhanced law enforcement were essential to achieve a higher level of human development in Vietnam, according to UNDP.

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