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Viet Nam – Southeast Asia Security Laws

A revised Vietnamese Constitution was recently adopted on 28 November 2013. Chapter II of the Constitution guarantees the fundamental rights of citizens, such as the right to privacy (article 21), freedom of belief and religion (article 24), freedom of speech and the right to access to information (article 25), and the right to leave the country and to return from abroad (article 23).

Article 31 of the Constitution guarantees the rights of the accused, which include the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty (article 31(1)), the right to a speedy trial (article 31(2)), and the right to defend oneself or to be represented by counsel before a court of law (article 31(4)).

The Criminal Procedure Code (2003) provides the rules of procedure for criminal investigations, pretrial processes, trials, and appeals. Article 120 permits four-month temporary detention periods to be renewed three times for national security crimes, for a total possible pre-trial detention time of sixteen months.

The Penal Code (1999) is the main source of criminal laws in the country. It defines acts that are tantamount to “infringing upon national security” (articles 78 to 92), and those that constitute “terrorism” (article 84). Article 79 of the Penal Code prohibits activities that are “aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” (article 79). Article 88 prohibits acts that are deemed as “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”.

The Law on National Security (2004) sets out regulations, duties and powers of State agencies, as well as the obligations of citizens, regarding the protection of national security, including a list of “prohibited acts” (article 13).