Oct 24, Colombo: Sri Lanka’s Cabinet has given its approval for the Witness and Victim Protection Bill proposed by Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem to proceed further.
The Bill will now be referred to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Legislation for its recommendations before it is presented to Parliament.
The law enacted by the Assistance and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Bill will create a balance in the Criminal Justice System of Sri Lanka between the rights of accused, the rights and entitlements of victims of crime and the entitlements of witnesses, the government said Thursday following its regular cabinet meeting.
The proposed bill will facilitate the conduct of fair trials and justice being meted out to both victims and accused of crime.
Sri Lanka does not have a witness protection law or program. Many human rights groups have emphasized the need of a mechanism to protect the victims and witnesses to improve the human rights situation of the country.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in her report to the UN Human Rights Council last month, called for a strong witness and victim protection legislation.
New York based Human Rights Watch in September this year reiterated its call, also made by Pillay, for a strong and effective victim and witness protection program in Sri Lanka.
During her visit to Sri Lanka in August, Pillay met with the Chief Justice, Attorney General and Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem to discuss the government’s progress on instituting the victim and witness protection program and offered technical support from her office to prepare the draft legislation.
Under the proposed bill the government will set up a national authority for the protection of victims of crime. The authority will be empowered to “provide assistance and redress to victims of crime upon an application.