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* Legal Draftsman of Sri Lanka ready to hand over witness and victims protection bill to Justice Ministry
Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 01:12 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Feb 12, Colombo: The Legal Draftsman's Department of Sri Lanka will hand over the legislation on witness and victims protection to the Justice Ministry soon.

Legal Draftsman G.S. Aruna Shantha de Silva told the local media that he had almost completed the work in transforming government policy into a legal format and that the draft will be sent to the Justice Ministry for the next step.

The Justice Ministry has to then take the initiative to submit the draft legislation to the Cabinet for approval.

The Bill will be referred to parliament once it is endorsed by the cabinet.

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 international community has urged the government to enact legislation on witness and victims protection as soon as possible because of its importance to investigations into some of the incidents during the war.

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.

The legislation was first presented in Parliament on April 2, 2008 but it was put off to a later date with new amendments. However, the Bill lapsed from the Order Paper after the House was prorogued at the time.

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.

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