Rajapaksa said in a statement that the government has introduced in Parliament, a Bill to amend the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, No. 25 of 2002.
He said the purpose of the original law was to facilitate cooperation between Sri Lanka and specified foreign countries in locating and identifying witnesses or suspects, the service of documents on such persons, the examination of witnesses, the obtaining of evidence, execution of requests for search and seizure, temporarily transferring a person in custody to appear as a witness, facilitation of the personal appearance of witnesses, the location of the proceeds of any criminal activity, and enforcing orders for the freezing of property etc.
It applied only to specified Commonwealth countries and to other countries that had signed agreements with Sri Lanka to render mutual assistance in criminal matters.
The Bill to amend Act No: 25 of 2002 will repeal and replace entire sections of the original Act and substantially change its character.
Rajapaksa says the proposed amendment will widen the applicability of the Act to every country that is a party to any international Convention that involves criminal matters.
“Though the original Act applied only to states, the proposed amendment will make it applicable to international organisations such as the International Criminal Court as well. It will also make documentary evidence and evidence obtained through video conferencing from persons resident in foreign countries admissible in judicial proceedings. The administrative machinery to respond expeditiously to requests from overseas is also to be expanded,” he said.
The former President said that the proposed legislation complements two previous laws introduced by the present Government – the Office of Missing Persons Act and the Act relating to the International Convention on Enforced Disappearances.
Rajapaksa says the amendments proposed to the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act of 2002 are clearly aimed at assisting foreign courts in the trial of Sri Lankans for offences allegedly committed in Sri Lanka. (Colombo Gazette)