Dec 08, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government plans to table the Witness and Victim Protection Bill, which has already been approved by the cabinet, in parliament early next year.
The bill is currently is undergoing fine-tuning by the Legal Draftsman and it will be presented in parliament soon, the Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem told parliament during the budget debate.
The Cabinet in October this year approved the Witness and Victim Protection Bill proposed by the Justice Minister.
According to the government, 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.
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."
The proposed law will seek to ensure the credibility of evidence to be extracted from witnesses through video conferencing and facilitate the conduct of fair trials and justice being meted out to both victims and the 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.
During her visit to Sri Lanka in August, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi 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.
Minister Hakeem also said that the government will soon introduce new laws on child protection and regulations on children's homes.
According to the Minister, a new system will also be introduced to evaluate the performance of judges and the evaluation can be used by the Judicial Services Commission to determine promotions.