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Justice Minister presents Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Bill in Parliament

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Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakse presented the Assistance to and Witness Protection Bill in Parliament yesterday. Addressing the House after presentation of the Bill, he stated: ‘This has been a long felt need in Sri Lanka.

The objectives of the Bill are to set up, uphold and enforce the rights and entitlement of victims of crimes and witnesses and provide a mechanism to promote, protect enforce and exercise such rights and entitlements. The government will set up a National Authority for the protection of victims of crime. The proposed Authority will be empowered to provide assistance and redress victims of crime upon an application.

It will be in the form of compensation from a special fund to be established for the purpose and to be managed by the new Authority. The Bill is to be rested with quasi judicial functions to receive complaints of alleged and imminent infringement of a fundamental right or a violation of human rights. Under its provisions witnesses will be entitled to receive fair and respected treatment with due regard to his/her dignity and privacy from investigatory, quasi-judicial and judicial authorities. Witnesses will also be protected against harassment and intimidation, coercion, for volunteering to make a statement during an investigation or for providing testimony in or before a commission, relating to the alleged commission of an alleged infringement of a fundamental right or a violation of a human right. 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 10 years’

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