Victims suffering for want of rules

Kathmandu, December 12

The constitution and relevant laws protect the rights of crime victims, but because the government has not framed Crime Victim Protection Rules yet, crime victims have not been able to benefit from full protection of law.

Victimology expert Shanker Kumar Shrestha said separate rules needed to be framed to protect the interests of victims of crime in general, and victims of sexual violence in particular.

According to him, separate rules were needed to provide case related information and compensate crime victims, treat victims in need of medical care, ensure in-camera proceedings for crime victims, and provide relief and compensation in cases where the accused have not been identified.

“A rape victim’s identity should be protected in all circumstances and if police personnel are sent to a rape victim’s house to notify her of court proceedings, that could ruin her family life because in our society a rape victim is not accepted even by family members,” Shrestha said and added that separate rules needed to be framed to address these problems.

He said victims of sexual violence and human trafficking might suffer mental and physical trauma, so they should be treated for free. Shrestha said rules should clearly state that crime victims won’t have to pay any fee for filing petition.

Shrestha further said that current legal provisions were not enough to ensure in-camera proceedings. “Designating one room as in-camera court would not serve the purpose if a crime victim has to use the same entrance and exit on the premises of the court. Crime victims do not want to see the face of their perpetrators, but current provisions do not ensure these things. Only new rules can address these issues,” Shrestha said.

At present, police often do not register FIR if the victim cannot identify his/her perpetrators. This should change and even in such a situation, a victim should get interim relief and compensation, he argued.

Executive Director of Forum for Women, Law and Development Sabin Shrestha said the constitution stipulated that all laws related to enjoyment of fundamental rights should be framed within three years and yet the government had not framed rules even after five years. As a result, crime victims had not been able to enjoy the full protection of law as per the spirit of the constitution.

Victims of crime are entitled to interim relief and compensation. They can also file an application with the police during investigation and with the court after the charge sheet has been filed, stating the economic, mental, physical and educational impacts they have faced due to the crime committed against them, but since rules related to crime victim protection have not been framed yet, crime victims have not benefited in the form of full protection of the law, he argued.

In the past, nobody bothered to inform crime victims of court proceedings. The court would deliver verdicts and crime victims did not even know that verdicts had already been passed in their cases,” Shrestha added.

He said rules were necessary to detail the provisions related to how crime victims should be informed of court proceedings, compensation and social rehabilitation.

Under-secretary at the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Hum Bahadur KC said the ministry had already sent the draft of the Crime Victim Protection Rules and once those rules were endorsed by the Cabinet, they would come into force and victims would finally benefit.