Lawyers last week observed that the mechanism to allow for witnesses to testify from overseas was not a clear one.
The Cabinet recently approved a proposal by Minister of Justice Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe to amend the existing laws including the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act to allow for such without having to be physically present in Court, through audio and visual media provided at Sri Lankan Diplomatic Missions in foreign countries, while also enacting provisions to protect the freedom of witnesses and to prevent any undue influence.
Whilst commending the move as a positive step, Chairman of Transparency International Sri Lanka, Attorney-at-Law Lakshan Dias said that a mechanism on par with general procedures applicable in relation to dealing with evidence subject to judicial understanding and within the judicial framework should be created in Sri Lankan Diplomatic Missions on overseas soil.
Certain Sections of the Evidence Ordinance will have to be revisited and amended, he remarked.
There could be a room set up in each of the diplomatic missions where no one else can be present and no documents can be referred to, he added.
“Certain other countries have done this. The mechanism should be discussed. It is not clear how we can apply the existing laws to such a situation. Shortcomings must be overcome. People may not be able to give evidence by coming down to Sri Lanka due to various factors. This is even applicable to rape victims who have fled their perpetrators. There are security concerns,” he explained.