Judicial Assistance from Foreign Countries to Vietnam more resources with circular 15

30 - 12 - 2011
By Le Trung Nghia*

On 15 September 2011 Circular 15/2011/TTLT-BTP-BNG-TANDTC ("Circular 15") was issued guiding the implementation of the Law on Judicial Assistance, dated 21 November 2007 ("Law") establishing a channel through which Vietnamese courts may recourse for judicial assistance for court proceedings involving foreign elements.

Under the Civil Code of Vietnam, a dispute "involves foreign elements" when (i) at least one of the involved parties is a foreign individual, agency or organization, or an overseas Vietnamese, or (ii) the dispute involves civil relations between Vietnamese citizens, agencies or organizations where the basis for establishing, changing or terminating such relations is governed by foreign laws or has arisen overseas, or (iii) assets involved in such relations are located overseas.

Over the years, Vietnam has entered into bilateral treaties on Civil Judicial Assistance with many countries. Such treaties, along with domestic laws, have formed solid basis for authorities to settle disputes requiring judicial supports from foreign related countries.

Under the framework of bilateral judicial treaties, Vietnamese courts can officially and lawfully work with disputes involving foreign elements, verify civil relations established under foreign laws, dispose of assets located overseas, and take other required actions.

However, there remain many countries with which Vietnam has not had such a bilateral judicial treaty, and this leaves Vietnamese courts in difficulties requesting for judicial assistance across borders. The most likelihood is that this results in the court having to suspend proceedings because they cannot obtain necessary assistance and the law is silent on how to proceed in such instances.

Circular 15 is an attempt to remedy this problem. It covers three main subjects: 1) requests for foreign judicial assistance, 2) judicial assistance relating to Vietnamese citizens residing abroad, and 3) performance of judicial assistance when requested.

Besides clarifying the procedural issues and responsibilities of Vietnamese authorities, Circular 15 allows local courts to continue settlement procedures despite failure to receive judicial assistance from a foreign country.

With an average of 1500 requests for judicial assistance per year in Vietnam, the need for clarification was obvious. It is hoped that when entering into effect from 01 December 2011, Circular 15 will make a considerable contribution to paving the way for settlement of civil cases involving foreign elements, especially for those relating to countries with which Vietnam has not yet concluded a judicial assistance treaty.

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