Many people unaware about victim, witness protection: speakers
Incorporating general people's understanding while setting definition of "victim" and "witness" in relevant law is essential to ensure their protections, former chairman of National Human Rights Commission Prof Mizanur Rahman said yesterday.
"Let us not bother as much with the technicalities of law. Rather, we should put more emphasis on a common person's perception and understanding of the protection of victim and witness," he told a virtual conference.
If such "common truth" can be established then there will be no need for "groping around for the definitions", said Prof Mizanur, a teacher of law at Dhaka University.
Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) organised the virtual conference as part of preparation of a draft law on victims and witnesses protection.
Prof Mizanur added that limiting only within the technicalities of law might not fulfill the objectives of protecting victims and witnesses.
During the event, findings of a field-level survey on "Protection of the Victims and Witnesses", commissioned by MJF and conducted on 763 respondents across eight divisions, were shared.
Barrister Tapas Kanti Baul, who presented the report findings, said most respondents said they were unaware whether the country has a victim and witness protection law. Many also said they have no clear idea about "victim or witness protection".
He said during the field-level survey they found different challenges for protection victims and witnesses, with three major areas to address.
The respondents emphasised on providing financial support (39 percent), social support (27 percent), and physical support (33 percent), Tapas said.
They emphasised on financial issues as the most important factor for them, as most victims suffer from financial hardship, he said. As financial support, they mentioned equal amount of their daily wage, food and transport allowances, and compensation, he added.
Human rights lawyer Advocate Salma Ali said besides formulating the law, ensuring support services for its enforcement is also important.
She said at present, a person can lodge general diary with police if they feel threatened by an accused. However, police seldom inquire into such allegations.
It is a fundamental right of a victim to give their account without fear, said MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam, while welcoming the participants.
Besides, a witness also has strong role to play during the process of trial of a perpetrator in a rights violation case, she said.
Shaheen Anam said several well-thought suggestions have been generated during the virtual conference which could help prepare a draft copy of the proposed law.