Three Asian destinations were the purpose of this trip made by the President of the European and International Affairs Committee. Philippe-Henri Dutheil went to meet lawyers in Hanoi, Phnom Penh and Yangon. Though the presence of continental law is self-evident in the first two countries this is not the case for Myanmar, where Common Law has a much firmer foothold.
When he travelled to Hanoi, Philippe-Henri Dutheil held discussions with the President of the Hanoi Bar, Nguyen Van Chien and the President of the Vietnam Bar Federation, Do Ngoc Thinh, accompanied by the council of the Embassy of France, who are actively involved in issues of justice and co-operative initiatives between French and Vietnamese lawyers.
Philippe-Henri Dutheil with the President of the Vietnam Bar Federation, Do Ngoc Thinh
His meeting with the Ambassador of France confirmed that French diplomacy supports the work that the French National Bar Council undertakes abroad and which forms part of the law-based intervention strategy implemented by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Vietnamese Bar is particularly interested in setting up a Fund for Lawyers’ Pecuniary Settlements and joint training courses. A meeting with French lawyers who work in Vietnam called attention to the problem of reciprocity, which means that they are unable to fully practice their profession in Vietnam. A French lawyer may only provide legal consultations in foreign and international law. He or she may not represent or assist clients before Vietnamese state courts.
Philippe-Henri Dutheil with some of the French lawyers who practice in Vietnam
The meetings in Cambodia made it possible to confirm that relatively similar issues are at stake there. After meeting the Ambassador of France and the new Bar President of Cambodia, Visal Suoun, in Phnom-Penh, Philippe-Henri Dutheil held discussions with an NGO, Destination justice, which is extremely active in promoting access to justice.
This non-profit organisation specialises in the fields of law, governance and development. It aims to strengthen human rights and the rule of law in a pragmatic, collaborative, sustainable and global manner. Like in Vietnam, meeting French lawyers on the ground once again facilitated an in-depth examination of the issues they face when they attempt to fully practice the legal profession. These ongoing negotiations with the Bar President should, we hope, eventually lead to the Bar becoming accessible for our French colleagues.
Philippe-Henri Dutheil and the team which leads the NGO Destination Justice
Lastly, Myanmar is a destination which had hitherto remained relatively unknown to the French Bar. The opening-up of the country to democracy and the lifting of UN and EU sanctions mean the country has strong potential for economic development. A lot is at stake in this country, despite still-sensitive issues such as the question of the Rohingya people or violence committed in the Rakhine State. The Myanmar Bar Council took pleasure in welcoming this first visit from the French Bar and seems entirely disposed to embarking on more developed cooperation. Philippe-Henri Dutheil also met with the Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar, a democratic and fully independent organisation, created in 2015 at the instigation of the International Bar Association. The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger denounced, on 1 February 2017, the assassination of the lawyer Ko Ni, a member of the aforementioned association, which occurred because of his stand against the influence of military power and his activism in favour of religious tolerance.
Philippe-Henri Dutheil and the Bar President of Cambodia, Visal Suon
Philippe-Henri Dutheil and the members of the Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar
At each of these three stages, the French National Bar Council was able to promote the International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger, an international mechanism which was set up by the French Bar in collaboration with the Spanish and Italian Bars to support our colleagues who come under threat because they practice their profession. This is still a sensitive issue in those countries where the weak independence of justice often puts lawyers on the front line against repression carried out by those in power. We also promoted the Grande bibliothèque du droit (Great Library of Law) and invited all the lawyers we met to participate in the National Convention of Lawyers which will take place from 18 to 21 October 2017.