Witness Protection In Pakistan: Current Laws, Amendments and Comparison With Other Countries

Witness Protection In Pakistan: Current Laws, Amendments and Comparison With Other Countries

Introduction

Although, the Protection of Pakistan Act 2014 [1] exists and Sindh Assembly passed a resolution for the said subject [2], along with JUI also submitting a motion in National Assembly [3] recently, the only witness of Sabeen Mahmud’s (the renowned philanthropist) murder was shot dead in Karachi [4]. The Witness Protection Bill needs to be effective and implemented strictly, especially in Karachi.

Current Situation

In the current situation the country is facing the ops conducted by Law Enforcement Agencies, the bureaucracy and the administrative machinery of the government should increase the implementation of this law on larger scale with its full effectiveness. Unfortunately on one hand where Law Enforcement Agencies are fully active in eliminating terrorism and target killing, the people involved in heinous crimes scatter away freely because of lack of implementation of this witness protection bill as no one willingly testifies against them  and those who do, come under the attack just like the only witness in Sabeen Mahmud case. Not only this, Wali Babar, the journalist who was a victim of target killing is also still facing injustice because of  the witnesses being eliminated one by one. It is the dire need of the country where laws are being passed by the assembly and National Assembly to ensure their implementation.

Recent Amendments

The current resolution for the said subject called the National Assembly  of Pakistan [5] to have witness under the protection of  Law Enforcement Agencies.  Although it has been stated, but with most of the Law Enforcement Agencies having political backing and links to such groups, such witness bill becomes nullified altogether.

The recent 21st Amendment in Constitution of Pakistan 1973, “For Speedy Trial Military Courts to deal with terrorism”  the witness protection should be linked and  separate Law Enforcement Agencies  should be established for the same.

Comparison With Other Countries

In United States Federal Witness Protection Program is initiated for witness protection administered by the United States Department of Justice and operated by the United States Marshals Service primarily designed to protect threatened witnesses before, during, and after a trial. [6]

Recent facts state that as of 2013, 8,500 witnesses and 9,900 family members have been protected by the U.S. Marshals Service since 1971.

In United Kingdom the openness of judicial proceedings is a fundamental principle enshrined in Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (The right to Fair Trial). This underpins the requirement for a prosecution witness to be identifiable not only to the defendant, but also to the open court. It supports the ability of the defendant to present his case and to test the prosecution case by cross-examination of prosecution witnesses. In some cases it may also encourage other witnesses to come forward. Further the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (YJCEA) sets out a range of measures that are available to witnesses in criminal proceedings who are deemed to be ‘intimidated’. The special measures which may be relevant for intimidated witnesses are: screening the witness from the accused; evidence by live link; evidence given in private.[7] Furthermore the applications to hold a Crown Court hearing in camera, concealing the names of witnesses, full anonymity and witness protection programs and laws are being fully implemented thus making  easy for witness to testify against the culprits without any fear.

Most of the countries that have passed a witness protection bill have separate Law Enforcement Agencies like Hong Kong. The units are notably Witness Protection Unit (WPU) of the Hong Kong Police Force, Witness Protection and Firearms Section (R4) of Independent Commission Against Corruption and  similar sections of the Witness Protection Unit of the Hong Kong Customs. The members of these units undergo training in  tactics of protection, firearms, self-defence, physical and tactical training and  are mostly trained in the use of Glock 19 compact handgun as sidearm.

The Witness Security Programme in the Republic of Ireland is administered by the Attorney General of Ireland, and is operated by the elite Special Detective Unit (SDU) of the Garda Síochána, the national police force.

The New Zealand Police provide protection for witnesses against members of criminal gangs and serious criminals who feel threatened or intimidated. They run a Witness Protection Programme that monitors the welfare of witnesses and if necessary, helps create new identity.

In Ukraine, depending on the nature of the case and the location of the trial, the safety of witnesses is the responsibility of different agencies, such as the Special Judicial Police unit Gryphon (part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs), the Security Service of Ukraine and, formerly, the special police unit Berkut.

Conclusion

For an effective judicial proceedings in criminal cases it is important that the witnesses testifies and gives his statement free from any coercion and help the judiciary in drawing out justice for those who were killed, or wrongfully detained but if the witness itself is not present then those committing the crime go free. It is important that witnesses are protected with effective administration. Proper bills and laws should be implemented and passed  so that the corrupt, and the people committing the most heinous crimes are put away for good and a better society can be developed.

 

[1] http://www.na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/1404714927_922.pdf

[2] http://www.pas.gov.pk/uploads/acts/Sindh%20Act%20No.LI%20of%202013.pdf

[3] http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-306160-JI-submits-witness-protection-bill-in-NA-Secretariat

[4] http://www.dawn.com/news/1205489

[5] http://www.pas.gov.pk/uploads/acts/Sindh%20Act%20No.LI%20of%202013.pdf

[6] Wikipedia

[7] www.cps.gov.uk

 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which he might be associated.

Hamza Kazi

The writer is a professional lawyer who graduated from Karachi University obtaining 2nd position in the LLB examination 2012 and 3rd position in MA-Political Science examination 2013. He also holds a degree in Masters of Business Administration from IoBM Karachi.



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