Radio New Horizon: An interview with Cu Huy Ha Vu

Radio New Horizon

The following is a fully translated transcript of Radio New Horizon’s interview with Cu Hay Ha Vu, conducted by Hoang Ha on June 19, 2009. Cu Huy Ha Vu is a lawyer who recently filed an unprecedented lawsuit against Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for breaking four national laws in an attempt to fast-track the bauxite mining project in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.


Hoang Ha: Please listen in as I interview Cu Hay Ha Vu, for we have learnt that he just received a summons to appear in court. Mr. Ha can you please describe the circumstances surrounding the request for your appearance at the Administrative Court of Hanoi today?

Cu Hay Ha Vu:Soon after I filed my petition protesting Directive 167 on June 11, the Administrative Court, a subdivision of the People’s Court of Hanoi responded on June 19. Decree 167 was signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and allowed for the bauxite mining project to move forward [in the Central Highlands].

In my experience dealing with legal matters, the processing of a legal petition often takes months if not years to get the case docketed. Since the lawsuit dealt with the Government and Government officials, the Court tends to take a back-seat approach in determining whether or not it would take up the case. After all, the defendant is the Government, of which Court views itself to be a part of, so certain conflict of interests is inevitable. When such view is in place, the interests of the common people usually left behind.

The fact that my petition garnered such a quick response is in itself a significant event. Putting the timely response aside, I felt much more encouraged by the fact that the petition was being considered, acknowledged and not left to be ignored altogether. In a sense, that the controversial nature of the case has attracted attention from higher officials and light-speed reaction from the Court demonstrates the high importance of this issue and the obligations it requires.

Hoang Ha:Please describe the circumstances surrounding the summons. In the appearance summons, is there indication as to the status of the case review or are you expected to present evidentiary matters before the court in such an appearance?

Cu Hay Ha Vu:As to why such a rapid response was made, the Chief Judge of the Administrative Criminal Division explained that had the case not involved a petition against the decision made by the Prime Minister, it would be handled in its normal due course. Other than acknowledging the case getting docketed, the adjudication is still pending and I will be contacted later in the day.

Nevertheless, I want to make a point about he manner of which I was received by the judge. At my arrival, I was met by a 50-year-old man, sitting at his desk waving for me to sit down. The courtesy is less likely to occur in a court setting, so I inquired, “Please tell me what is your position here, Sir?” He then replied “I am the Chief Administrative Judge with the responsibility to meet you today.”

I then further asked him, “May I know what your Name Is?”

He said, “My name is Nguyen Tuan Vu” while pointing his finger at the name tag hanging in the chamber that states: “Chief Administrative Judge Nguyen Tuan Vu.”

I then made a remark, “Oh, Tuan Vu is the name of a well-known song-writer I am familiar with.” This drew a good laugh from the people in the chamber, which somehow served as an ice- breaker. I then extended my hand for a handshake, which he reciprocated. I thought it was a bit more civil than what I am used to. Yet, the whole action was not meaningful as the Chief Administrative Judge informed me that I was only procedurally invited to come to be informed that the matter was pending a review.

At this point, I took the opportunity to emphasize some points of the case. Firstly, I urgently requested that the People’s Court of Hanoi and the Administrative Court, in particular, take their due diligence in their consideration of the petition I submitted. I noted that petition was drawn from the will of peoples of all ages in Vietnam and around the world who are seeking that fairness and justice be recognized by the Court, as Vietnam is a new member of the World Trade Organization. [I reminded them that] investors in Vietnam are interested to see that 1) the law is justly administered and in conformance with international standards of legal practice; 2) the law is justly administered even in disputes with the State.

As high as the stakes seems to be, the outcome of the case will be monitored not just by the people of Vietnam, but also by people the world over who are interested in justice.

A point I’d like to leave in the minds of the Court is that, in my opinion, this case is not going to be the last. This case will establish the legal precedent capable of shaping future decisions. I solemnly affirmed that as long as there will be wrongful practice by the executive branch head, I will be here to pursue justice for the people of Vietnam.

Hoang Ha:The filing of this lawsuit against the State is an unprecedented action taken by a private citizen. Given the pioneering nature of which a private citizen is willing to take a stand to sue the Prime Minister for the perceived wrongful practice in the eyes of the people, do you foresee that there will be a fair trial?

Cu Hay Ha Vu:Believing in a fair judicial process is all we can do! I see little difficulty in the way of the decision that is to be reached. The difficulty lies squarely on the Court, or more specifically, on the leadership of the Government of Vietnam: whether or not Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung would want to see justice being fairly pursued?

With respect to the political environment, we can reasonably expect that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and the leadership of the Government, in principle, is driven by the policy handed down by the Politburo that there should be no strong desire to have the case considered, for the proper adjudication may lead to a Court ruling for the reversal of the Decree promulgated by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. From such a perspective, taking up the case may result in consequential challenges.

On the other hand, the decision also hangs on whether or not the Court will view this case in a human rights perspective. As such, I am fully confident that the law vests in me the power to act in the name of people in my country, and I am ready for the challenge. The law states that “each administration decision is subject to lawful challenges”

Hoang Ha:In light of the Court’s demonstrated rapid response in issuing an appearance summons today, please describe your take on whether or not the case will be heard?

Cu Hay Ha Vu:I would venture to guess that the Court’s decision on the case would be a rather routine process. Either the Court decides in my favor, which is the favor of the people of Vietnam or the Court will side with the State, in which case I will pursue further levels of appeals, as far as the law the law will allow me. In either situation, the core issue is the ability to unequivocally demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Court that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung grossly erred in his decision in promulgating Decree 167.

If the Court, for some reasonm chooses to side with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, despite of the legal case against him, I believe a great miscarriage of justice will have taken place. This could set back the progress of the country and be a disservice to the people of Vietnam. If it is so, it will be a sad day for Vietnam. I could draw a logical deduction, with a 99% level of confidence, that if the case were to be heard, it would likely be resolved in favor of the people.

In the event that the Court refuses to hear it, though such a position is not something politically predictable either, the law is so clear on the issue such that it’s equally inconceivable for me that the Court — whether it be the Administrative Court of Hanoi or the Supreme Court — would resist my lawful petition pursuant to the constitutional framework with which the rights were set forth.

Hoang Ha:I do agree with you. However, let’s say, with your 99% confidence level, that the case was heard, the decision would be in favor of the people of Vietnam. What, then, if the case is rejected?

Cu Hay Ha Vu:To tell you the truth, I could hardly imagine otherwise. As long as we assume that the country is ruled by a law-based principle, and the Decree 167 is recognized as the administrative decision, it must be heard. In order for the case not be heard, the Government must somehow call it something else, whatever it is, that it is not an administrative decision. I would not expect them to be that clever.

Hoang Ha:Let’s wait and see how the Administrative Court will decide. Before we are signing off, is there a statement you’d like to make to the listeners?

Cu Hay Ha Vu:I hold an optimistic view in the case I filed against Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. The factors attributing to such optimism for the most part comes from the overwhelming support demonstrated by the people of Vietnam, and the Vietnamese diaspora overseas. Their support strengthen my belief that the direction of the country is headed the wrong way; that this case is just not for the people of Vietnam but also for our beloved nation, for bauxite mining could spell environmental disaster.

The fact that my presence was summoned gives me a hope that the petition will not just be ignored and silenced. What remains to be seen is how it is going to play out in light of the expectation of the people whose interest we have come to serve and protect.

In my final analysis, I would hope and pray that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung would give bauxite mining a very serious reconsideration and understand that the disadvantages and the inherent environmental dangers far outweighs any perceived economic advantages. Bauxite mining will surely affect many innocent, helpless people, as the well-established scientific community, in their opposition to Decree 167, has eloquently demonstrated through evidence and testimonials. I welcome the time when the lawsuit will no longer be needed. At the end of the day, what we are talking about the best way to advance the people of Vietnam and our beloved country.

Hoang Ha:Once again, on behalf of Radio New Horizon, I would like express my deepest gratitude for your participation in this interview. It is our hope that you will be able to update our listeners on the progress of the case in the days ahead.

Cu Hay Ha Vu: Thank you for having me.


Update post-interview: In a signed decision dated June 19, Hanoi’s tribunal president Nguyen Son, rejected Cu Huy Ha Vu’s lawsuit. The Hanoi People’s Court cited that the case did not come within the court’s jurisdiction. Undeterred, Cu Huy Ha Vu is determined to appeal the decision to the People’s Supreme Court, Vietnam’s highest judicial body.


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