PRESENTATION OF DRAFT REPORT ON VICTIM OF CRIME AND WITNESS PROTECTION RESEARCH
On 21.10.2020 Baul & Associates submitted a draft report on victim of crime and witness protection, this project is completed in partnership with Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF)
The protection of victims and witnesses of crimes and human rights violations are central to the concept of Rule of law. It is also critical to ensure fundamental human rights, freedom and justice of those persons. Right now, there is no Act that provides specific protection to the victims and witnesses to a crime. Even the words “victim” and “witness” are not defined in any law. They are used in their dictionary meaning. The Law Commission of Bangladesh in its 2006 report titled “Final Report on A Proposed Law Relating to Protection of Victims and Witnesses of Crimes involving Grave Offences” has also found that there is nearly no protection for the victims of crime in Bangladesh. In this context, Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) took up this research to address the present situation of protection in Bangladesh and to propose a draft law for the protection of the witnesses and victims of crimes.
The quantitative method was followed to get data from all over Bangladesh from the stakeholders. This study included the following methodologies:
- Literature Review
- Field Study
- One to one Interview, and
- Focus group discussion (FGD)
A number of international human rights conventions and treaties, including the UDHR, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power followed by a Guide for Practitioners regarding the implementation of the Declaration etc. have prescribed universal standards, like – human dignity, equal treatment irrespective of primordial factors of a person, rule of law, natural justice etc. which a country should adopt to protect not only the victims and the witnesses, but also all the living beings of the world. The regional laws, e.g., European Convention on Human Rights, African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights etc. Have also played a crucial role in setting up a regional standard of protection. Among all the international laws, the Rome Statute has established that the victims and witnesses of crimes must be protected and their voices should be heard. During the research, it is found that countries like – UK, USA, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India, have special laws for the protection of victims of crimes and witnesses. These laws incorporated clauses regarding compensation and humane treatment of this group of people by the duty bearers. Nepal and Sri Lanka, the SAARC countries, have made it mandatory that a victim and a witness will get up to date information regarding her case from the police and the prosecutor and she will be compensated for her travel cost. It has also been made mandatory by law that police and other law enforcing agencies will enlarge protection for them without question and medical services will be readily available for a victim even if she cannot reach there. There is no law in Bangladesh which makes it mandatory for a victim or a witness. It depends upon the mercy of the duty bearers whether they will be humanely treated or they will get any kinds of compensation or protection.
Some pictures of fieldwork and data collection for the research.
In Bangladesh, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, the Penal Code 1860 and the Evidence Act 1872 along with a few special laws provides some scattered protection to a victim of crime or a witness. But we have found from the field survey that these provisions are not sufficient for protection of the victims and witnesses. Under the existing laws, the respondents are still facing a number of problems, such as- Gender discrimination, threat and harassment by the defendant / accused persons, threat by local government representatives, failure to maintain the case due to financial crisis, due to misbehavior by the staffs in safe custody and in the court, due to non-cooperation of family members, due to non-cooperation of the staffs of the court, absence of pure drinking water in the court premises, absence of enough security in the court premises, lack of security from police even after seeking for it etc. In case of ethnic victims and witnesses they need interpreter and LGBT community need dignified treatment. Their demands are overlooked and in the present scenario, they are marginalized among marginalized.
Considering all these circumstances, the draft Act has incorporated the following provisions – Entitlements of Victims and Witnesses, Special Provisions for Protection of Victims of Rape, Kidnap, Abduction and Trafficking, Victim Protection during the process of age verification, Duties of the victims and the witnesses, Not to be deemed victim, Rights and Benefits of the protected person, Termination of victim/witness protection, Rehabilitation of victims, Speedy Hearing or Trial, Offences against victims of crime and witnesses, Victims of Crime and Witnesses Assistance and Protection Division, Victims of Crime and Witnesses Assistance and Protection Programme, Establishment of an Office for the Victims and the Witnesses, Register of Victim and Witness Protection under this Act, Power to make order for interim compensation.
The paper has incorporated a set of recommendations for the rights bearers, i.e. victims and witnesses and for the duty bearers or the stakeholders who will implement the services offered to the right bearers, e.g. police and other law enforcing agencies, judiciary, human rights and NGO activists, journalists, lawyers, government officials etc. To pass an enactment for the protection of victims and witnesses, to make financial arrangements for the concerned authorities, to establish an Office for the victims and the witnesses in every District, to establish a compensation fund for the victims and the witnesses, to establish a ‘victim and witness protection cell’ in every police station of the country, to treat each and every victim and witness with dignity that they deserve under the law and to provide necessary training to that effect, to cooperate with the Office for the Protection of the Victims and the Witnesses, to be respectful to victims and witnesses and mindful of not disclosing their identity without their consent, to establish a proper resting place for victims and witnesses visiting the Court, to appoint trained and sensitive medical officers who will treat the victims with compassion and dignity etc.