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Strengthening victim, witness protection regime stressed

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Staff Reporter
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali on Monday laid emphasis on strengthening victim and witness protection regime through identifying and addressing the gaps to ensure the full protection of witnesses to terrorism.
“We must leverage that synergy to further strengthen our victim and witness protection regime,” he said adding that recent experience with combating financing of terrorism has shown what can be achieved through effective coordination among all agencies concerned.
The Foreign Minister was speaking at the inaugural session of the two-day national workshop titled ‘Strengthening National Legal Frameworks for the Protection and Support of Victims and Witnesses of Terrorism’ held at Cirdap International Conference Centre in the city.
Senior Home Secretary Dr M Mozammel Haque, Law Secretary M Shahidul Haque and US Ambassador Dan W Mozena, among others, spoke on the occasion.
Mahmood Ali cited the case of late Mostafa Howladar who was hacked to death while asleep at his home at a village in Pirojpur in December last year.
“It was a clear case of reprisal against Howladar for having testified against the Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee. In less than two years of giving his testimony, Howladar had to succumb to the wrath of those who would like to see the ICT-BD trials disrupted and halted,” he said.
The Foreign Minister said Howladar became the second generation victim of the murderous zeal of the purveyors of the crimes against humanity and genocide during our War of Liberation in 1971.
“We couldn’t, 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,” he said.
Mahmood Ali 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.
“It’s critical that the legislative and administrative arrangements that we consider must have a sound interface with the human rights norms and standards. We should try to involve the human rights community in the process from the very outset.”
He said the development and empowerment that Bangladesh wishes to secure for its people can only be achieved in an environment of peace, security and stability. “We must remain on guard to make sure that we remain firmly on track to realise these objectives.”
Speaking at the function, Mozena said Bangladesh knows the pain of terrorism as it felt the sting of terrorism as a well-coordinated bombing campaign struck 63 of the nation’s 64 districts within a single day, as a barrage of grenades rained upon the then Leader of the Opposition and her supporters, slaughtering so many innocent people in 2004 and again in 2005.
“I applaud Bangladesh for its determination to save and preserve its hard-won freedom, to fight those who use fear, intimidation, killing to make Bangladesh a home for terrorism,” he said adding that he gives high marks to the government of Bangladesh for its powerful actions to excise the cancer of terrorism from the nation.
Mozena hoped that by the end of this workshop the participants will have a work plan for how best to proceed in protecting witnesses, including victims, whose participation in the legal process is vital to defeating the terrorists.
He said the struggle to safeguard the people of Bangladesh from the horrors of terrorism can be won only by Bangladeshis themselves.
The Foreign Affairs, Home and Law ministries jointly arranged the workshop in partnership with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC).
Diplomats from different countries and senior officials of the ministries concerned were present at the event conducted by Foreign Ministry Director General (UN) Saida Muna Tasneem.