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Witness protection Bill finally coming

( August 24, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The much delayed Bill to provide assistance and protection to victims of crime and to witnesses is to be presented to Parliament shortly.The Bill to be presented by Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem sets out rights and entitlements of victims of crime and witnesses and promotes their rights and entitlements.The draft Bill has been gazetted ahead of its presentation to Parliament.

The Bill also gives effect to appropriate international norms, standards and best practices relating to the protection of victims of crime and witnesses and also provides for the establishment of the national authority in this connection. Under the provisions of this Bill, a victim of crime will have the right to be treated with equality, fairness and with respect for his dignity and privacy .Where the victim is a child, he/she will to be treated in a manner which ensures the best interests of such child.

The Bill also provides for the payment of compensation to victims of crime in consideration of the expenses incurred as a result of the offence committed and his participation in any judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings before a court or Commission, pertaining to the alleged offence or an alleged infringement of a fundamental right or a violation of a human right.

Under its provisions, witnesses will be entitled to receive from investigational, quasi-judicial and judicial authorities fair and respectful treatment, with due regard to his dignity and privacy. Witnesses will also protected against harassment and intimidation, coercion, for volunteering to make a statement during an investigation or for providing testimony in a court or before a Commission, relating to the alleged commission of an offence or an alleged infringement of a fundamental right or a violation of a human right.

The Bill provides witnesses protection against any real or possible harm, threat, intimidation, reprisal or retaliation resulting from such witness having provided information or lodged a complaint or made a statement to any law enforcement authority or for having provided any testimony in any court or before a Commission or for instituting legal proceedings.

It also sets out punishment for those who harass or threatens victims or witnesses which carries, upon conviction by the High Court, a sentence to a term of imprisonment not less than three years and not exceeding ten years and to a fine of rupees twenty thousand.

The offences against victims and witnesses includes threatening such a person with injury to his person, reputation or property or to the person or reputation or property of any other in whom such victim of crime or witness has an interest, with the intention of causing alarm to them to refrain from lodging a complaint against such person with a law enforcement authority or testifying at any judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings or to compel such victim of crime to withdraw a complaint lodged or legal action instituted against such person .

Courtesy: The Sunday Times