LEGAL SERVICES IN VIETNAM
UNITED STATES MILITARY ASSISTANCE COMMAND, VIETNAM
APO San Francisco 96222
14 September 1968
LEGAL SERVICES AND LEGAL OBLIGATIONS IN VIETNAM
1. Purpose. The information set forth below is to acquaint personnel with some of the new obligations assumed and benefits derived from serving in Vietnam.
a. US Law. Both the Uniform Code of Military justice and the Code of Conduct for members of the US Armed Forces govern the conduct of all US military personnel in Vietnam. Furthermore, the United States is a signatory of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and all US military personnel are expected to conduct themselves in a manner in keeping with the highest traditions of US fighting men when handling prisoners of war. All incoming personnel are issued a wallet sized card which outlines the duties and responsibilities of US forces with respect to PW's.
b. Vietnamese Law and the Pentalateral Agreement.
(1) Under the terms of an international agreement between the US and Vietnam, military personnel and certain civilians have been granted immunity from the criminal and civil jurisdiction of the Vietnamese courts. Therefore, an American serviceman cannot be tried in Vietnamese courts unless the US Government waives his immunity from jurisdiction.
(2) Notwithstanding the immunity from jurisdiction, US military personnel and DOD civilians must obey the Vietnamese law unless it is inconsistent with their military requirements. Compliance with Vietnamese laws is particularly important in the areas of traffic, curfew, and currency regulations. US personnel, if apprehended by Vietnamese authorities, will comply and cooperate, and will notify the military police or their unit commander as soon as possible. Personnel receiving a VN traffic citation, a summons to a VN court, or other legal VN process, will report the fact
1. This directive supersedes MACJA Letter, 30 June 1967, subject: Legal Services and Legal Obligations in Vietnam.
to their unit commander. Personnel involved in an accident or incident, are to reveal their name and organization to the investigating National Policeman or joint Patrol and furnish similar identification to injured parties seeking it. Obtain similar information concerning the other party. If asked to remain on the scene, or if asked to accompany a National Policeman to a booking station, personnel will comply unless military obligation requires otherwise. However, personnel will in no case resist by force the National Policeman who is in the performance of his duty. Personnel so restrained will inform either their unit commander, Provost Marshal or Staff judge Advocate as soon as possible.
(3) Before a serviceman becomes a plaintiff in a Vietnamese court consultation must be had with a judge Advocate or legal officer, and the SJA, USMACV will be notified. US military personnel may sue in local courts if and when permission is granted by US authority. Under Vietnamese law, if the suit is filed, the defendant may file a counter claim. That claim can be either civil or criminal, as VN courts try all aspects of a case in the one trial, at the same time. Filing a suit waives the serviceman's immunity. Therefore, the serviceman would be subject to the jurisdiction of the court and could be liable for any counter claims. The serviceman, if he should be found guilty of a crime relative to the case, such as perjury, may be punished for it by the Vietnamese.
3. Business Activities. MACV personnel are prohibited from engaging in any business or commercial enterprises for profit conducted in Vietnam. This prohibition does not extend to business transactions for the purchase or sale of property located outside Vietnam.
4. US Personnel. To avoid legal and disciplinary problems, the following directives must be read and adhered to: MACV Directive 643-1, subject: Customs Control; MACV Directive 58-3, subject: Privately-Owned motor vehicles; MACV Directive 210-5, subject: Custody and Control of Weapons; MACV Directive 632-2, subject: Personal Conduct and Activities of US Forces Personnel; and MACV Directive 37-6, subject: Regulation of Currency and Operation of Military Banking Facilities.
5. Legal Assistance. Military personnel and DOD civilian employees are entitled to legal assistance at any military legal office in Vietnam. Legal assistance officers will advise, assist and counsel on personal legal problems. They cannot represent individuals in court, or in matters pertaining to a profit-making activity, or in a claim against the United States. Although appointments are not necessary, they are encouraged to insure prompt service.
a. Claimants should contact the Claims Officer of their respective services for information on the processing of claims for damage to household goods or loss of personal property.
b. Extreme care should be taken in securing personal property. As a general rule, claims for loss of money, jewelry, cameras, and other items
of relatively high value will not be approved unless they were secured within a locked container in a locked room and there is evidence of a forcible entry. In connection with items of extraordinary value which are not commercially insured, they should not be retained in this command unless an individual is prepared to personally absorb their loss in the event of hostile action or theft. It is recommended that an inventory of personal valuables be maintained.
7. Federal and State Income Taxation.
a. Vietnam and its adjacent waters have been designated as a "Combat Zone."
b. The time for filing returns, declarations of estimated taxes, and the payment of any tax or estimated tax is automatically postponed without interest or penalty for the period of service in the combat zone (or while continuously hospitalized outside the United States as a result of an injury received or disease contracted while serving in the combat zone) and for the next 180 days thereafter. This relief is available to the spouse of a serviceman only if a joint return is filed.
c. Enlisted personnel and warrant officers in a "Combat Zone" receive all of their military pay and allowances including reenlistment bonus, tax exempt. Commissioned officers receive up to $300.00 of their monthly taxable pay exempt while in a combat zone. Any period of service in a combat zone during a month is sufficient to qualify for the tax exemption for the entire month. For example, personnel arriving in Vietnam on 31 May would be entitled to the tax exemption for the entire month of May.
d. No withholding of federal income tax from wages of any member of the Armed Forces is required during the month of which any part of his service was in a combat zone. Commissioned officers desiring to anticipate the tax on their pay above the $500.00 exemption must initiate action to accomplish the necessary withholding; otherwise, no tax will be withheld.
e. All personnel are urged to consult Annex A on State Income Taxations for a general outline of tax regulations pertaining especially to persons serving in the Vietnam combat zone.
8. Reports. This directive requires no report.
a. MACV Directive 3 7-6.
b. MACV Directive 58-3.
c. MACV Directive 210-5.
d. MACV Directive 632-2.
e. MACV Directive 643-1.
FOR THE COMMANDER:
CHARLES A. CORCORAN
Major General, USA
Chief of Staff