Government high-ups yesterday underscored the need for restorative justice, saying it would reduce crime, backlog of cases and overcrowding in prisons, save energy, money and time and bring peace and harmony to society.
Restorative justice is a mediation session under a trained facilitator between the accused and victim to provide reparation that can be agreed upon in place of prosecution, to prevent recurrence of an offence and to rehabilitate the offender through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.
The officials were addressing the inauguration of a two-day international conference, “Restorative Justice: From Crime Prevention to Conflict Transformation” jointly organised by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Department for International Development (DFID) at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the capital.
“If we can prevent crime, our streets, homes and workplaces will be safer,” said Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal.
He said research shows that there was little possibility for offenders to commit crimes again if they faced restorative justice. But, jailing increases chances of recurrence of a crime, he added.
According to the minister, 69,719 offenders are now crammed in prisons meant for 34,681 persons.
The home ministry, GIZ and DFID have been jointly implementing a project, “Improvement of the Real Situation of Overcrowding in Prisons in Bangladesh” since 2008.
In this regard, GIZ Bangladesh has initiated restorative justice at community-level arbitrations so that local problems can be solved using local and community solutions.
It also has decided to introduce restorative justice in specific cases like those concerning small scale physical assaults, theft, dowry, damage to crops and wealth, fraudulence, financial dispute and gambling.
Speaker of Jatiya Sangsad Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury said the method was extremely useful.
“The government is committed to reinforcing people's confidence in the criminal justice system. I believe there is an opportunity to look at the practice of restorative justice more widely,” she added.
The German embassy's charge d'affaires, Dr Ferdinand von Weyhe, said, “Looking at the huge amount of pending cases in courts it is necessary to think of new approaches.”
Where possible and applicable, restorative justice might be one option to restore peace and justice in due course and not only after years, he said.
Senior Secretary Mozammel Haque Khan, DFID Country Representative Sarah Cooke and GIZ Bangladesh Country Director Tobias Becker also spoke.