INTERVIEW: Vietnam has no freedom of speech, no true judiciary: Attorney Le Cong Dinh


Before his arrest in 2009 Le Cong Dinh was primarily a prominent business lawyer with a diverse portfolio of domestic and international clients. He also sat on the defense many high-profile human rights cases in Vietnam, including the trial of fellow attorneys Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan. Dinh’s prosecution on charges of “attempting to overthrow the people’s administration” under Article 79 was met with strong objections by the international community. He was released in 2013 after serving four years of a five-year sentence. interviewed Le Cong Dinh, a former Fulbright Scholar at Tulane University Law School, via internet.

VNRN: What kind of limitations have been placed on you after your release?

Le Cong Dinh: I have been under house arrest since February 6, 2013 when I was released. The government also prohibits me from practicing law again or working in a business company although the law does not set out such limitations. The reason the police always raise is that I could not move outside my place of residence during the 3-year house arrest period (until February 6, 2016).

VNRN: As a business lawyer, how do you think the lack of an independent judiciary affects investors’ view of Vietnam?

Le Cong Dinh: The highest concern of all investors in Vietnam is the lack of an independent judiciary. When government officials can interfere in the legal proceedings to instruct or force judges to resolve disputes on their own instructions, no one trusts the court system. On the other side, rich people can “buy” the justice by paying bribes to judges in order to arrange results of the hearing they want to see. The courtroom now becomes an auction place, where whoever pays the highest prices have a better chance to get the legal victory. That’s really funny!

This is why all foreign investors prefer to bring their business conflicts with local partners to Singapore or Paris for arbitration.

VNRN: The number of writers, bloggers, activists arrested and convicted in 2013 increased by 50% over the number in 2012. What do you think caused the government to step up the repression of speech?

Le Cong Dinh: All dictators do not want to listen from those who raise a different voice. I have never believed that the Vietnamese government will accept freedom of speech. Due to the fact that the number of writers, bloggers and activists challenging the communist party’s political power has increased more and more, the government has stepped up the repression of speech. We will see more people to be arrested despite any objection from Western countries supporting human rights for Vietnam.

VNRN: The government seems to go out of their way to prevent the cooperation between Vietnamese activists in and outside of Vietnam. Why do you think that’s the case?

Le Cong Dinh: One part, the police has insisted its policy of creating as much as possible suspicion among Vietnamese activists to weaken the movement for democracy in Vietnam and, the other part, the police physically attack activists to discourage them and their family members. We need to stand strong together to recognize and avoid such tactics.

VNRN: So, what else can Vietnamese living abroad do to help?

Le Cong Dinh: Whatever Vietnamese living abroad think necessary and can do, please do it for the benefit of the movement for democracy in Vietnam.

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