Speakers at the inauguration of a workshop yesterday called for strengthening the national legal framework to ensure protection and support for victims and witnesses of terrorism because their testimony and evidence are critical for prosecution.
They underscored the need for a comprehensive policy approach to develop and craft an effective and well-coordinated legal framework for Bangladesh's continued success against terrorism.
The two-day workshop, “Strengthening National Legal Framework for the Protection and Support of Victims and Witnesses”, was held in the capital's Cirdap auditorium.
The ministries of foreign, home and law, justice and parliamentary affairs organised the workshop in partnership with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali said despite significant strides in counter-terrorism, the issue of victim and witness protection still remained a grey and incomplete area in Bangladesh's national legislation.
“We must leverage that synergy to further strengthen our victim and witness protection regime,” he said, adding that recent experiences in combating financing of terrorism has shown what can be achieved through effective coordination among all agencies concerned.
Citing the case of late Mostafa Howladar who was hacked to death in his sleep in his village home in Pirojpur in December last year, he said it was a clear case of reprisal against Howladar for having testified against Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee.
He said, “We could not, as a society and a state, guarantee the protection that was due to Howladar despite the palpable threat against his life and many others like him.”
The minister recalled the sufferings of victims of the grenade attack on 21 August 2004. He said the support and protection they envisage for victims and witnesses need to be anchored within the principles of human rights and the rule of law.
US Ambassador Dan Mozena said Bangladesh knows the pain of terrorism as a well-coordinated bombing campaign struck 63 of the nation's 64 districts within a single day in 2005, and as a barrage of grenades rained upon the then leader of the opposition and her supporters, slaughtering so many innocent people in 2004.
Experts from the UNODC offices in Vienna and New Delhi, and experts from the US, Spain, Malaysia and Indonesia joined as resource persons.
Around 30 participants from the three ministries, legal and judicial officials, police, Border Guard Bangladesh, coast guard, financial intelligence unit, intelligence agencies and National Human Rights Commission are attending the workshop.