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Amendment sought to law for witnesses’ lifelong security

Tapos Kanti Das

A proposal for amendment to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 making provisions for providing lifelong security to witnesses, victims, judges and officials of the tribunals, prosecutors and investigators of war crimes cases and their families is on the cards.
The home ministry on January 15 sent the proposal, made by the war crimes investigation agency, to the law ministry for scrutiny, said officials in the ministries.
In a letter sent to the home ministry on December 30, 2013, the investigation agency recommended insertion on two more sections into the 1973 act after Section 25.
Section 25 of the act stipulates, ‘No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the government or any person for anything, in good faith, done or purporting to have been done under this act.’
The proposed Section 25A says, ‘The witnesses, victims, judges and officials of the tribunals, members of prosecution team and investigation agency and their family members shall be entitled to physical protection throughout their lives. The government will ensure the same.’
The proposed Section 25B says, ‘The witnesses, victims and their Family members shall be entitled and eligible to the benefits as provided by the government for the Freedom Fighters of Liberation War of 1971.’
The move was taken after the killing of a prosecution witness in a war crimes case and attacks on the houses and property of prosecution witnesses, judges and prosecutors, officials of the investigation agency said.
War crimes trial campaigners, since the installation of the war crimes tribunals, have been demanding a law for the protection of the witnesses.
‘We have taken the move as the rules framed by the tribunals stipulate for providing security to witnesses only and that too during the trial period,’ investigation agency chief coordinator Md Abdul Hannan Khan told New Age.
He said that security for the witnesses was now a major concern to them.
The two tribunals have so far delivered verdicts in nine war crimes cases and now dealing with eight cases against eight persons, all influential leaders of different political parties.
A prosecution witness against condemned convict Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee, Mostafa Hawlader, succumbed to his injuries at Dhaka Medical College Hospital on December 10, 2013, two days after he was hacked at his Pirojpur home at night.
The house of Mahabubul Alam Hawlader, the first prosecution witness against Sayedee, in Pirojpur was vandalised on October 28, 2013 and the Faridpur house and business establishment of Ranjit Kumar Nath, a witness against condemned Jamaat leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed came under attack on December 15, 2013.
Besides, village homes of Appellate Division judge SK Sinha, former tribunal 1 chairman Justice ATM Fazle Kabir and member Justice Jahangir Hossain, chief prosecutor Ghulam Arief Tipoo and prosecutor Tureen Afroz came under attack in December 2013.

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