Bangladesh, Nepal: Call for strengthening legislative framework on victim and witness protection in terrorism cases

UNODC is working in close partnership with South Asian governments to strengthen criminal justice systems for the protection and support of victims and witnesses in cases related to terrorism. To this end, UNODC conducted two national workshops, one in Bangladesh (25-26 August 2014) and one in Nepal (11-12 September 2014).   

Both the Government of Bangladesh and  Nepal have already taken significant strides in addressing the threat of terrorism. However, both countries lack comprehensive policies, including laws on victim and witness protection and support in general, including in terrorism cases.

In Bangladesh, under the existing framework, provisions on witness and victim protection and assistance are included in certain laws, e.g. the Human Trafficking Prevention and Suppression Act 2012, the International Crimes (Tribunal) Rules of Procedure 2010 etc. In Nepal, some legal provisions exist including travel allowance for witnesses to reach court, medical treatment, legal aid, protection of family and property. While these provisions are required and valuable, they cannot provide the protection and support to witnesses and victims of crimes required in more complex criminal cases.

In light of this, the national workshops conducted by UNODC and hosted by the Governments of Bangladesh and Nepal respectively, focused on supporting the process of strengthening their national legal framework. The workshops provided a platform to share good practices and learn about international trends and practices in witness protection. Participants also shared challenges in implementing national laws and policies.  

An important part of the discussions focused on the need to take into account the voices of the victim-survivors, as well as the use of counter-terrorism narratives when designing and implementing terrorism prevention policies.  It was recognised that the media, victim associations and related civil society organisations can play a pivotal role in complementing Government efforts.

Participants concluded that the substantive inputs and findings from the workshops will help policy makers and practitioners in framing national legislation and mechanisms.  In Bangladesh, it was recognized that the workshop has helped to pave the way towards developing a national action plan for adoption of law on witness and victim protection and support. In Nepal, the recommendations of the workshop included reviewing existing laws, including the victim's rights as fundamental rights in the Constitution, as well as initiating the legislative process for the draft bills on witness and victim protection and assistance.  Both the workshops were attended by Representatives from the Government and members of civil society organizations.  

The two workshops were conducted under the project titled: "Strengthening the legal regime against terrorism", with financial support from the United States of America.