A) Judicial safe zones

It has long been recognised that children testifying as witnesses find the courtroom experience intimidating. In many cases, they are victims themselves, and may be deterred from deposing fully and confidently in the formal atmosphere. The Supreme Court’s direction that within three months there should be at least two special deposition centres under every high court’s jurisdiction is a positive step towards ensuring a conducive and protective atmosphere for vulnerable witnesses. This takes forward the principle already contained in laws relating to children. For instance, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act provides for childfriendly procedures during a trial. Under this law, the officer recording a child’s statement should not be in uniform; also, during court proceedings steps must be taken to ensure that the child is not exposed to the accused. The court is allowed to record a child’s statement through video conferencing, or using one-way mirrors or curtains. At present, Delhi has four such deposition centres, backed by guidelines framed by the Delhi High Court. The amicus curiae in a criminal appeal before the Supreme Court had suggested that such special centres are needed in criminal cases that involve vulnerable witnesses. The Bench, setting aside a high court’s acquittal of a man accused of raping a hearing and speech impaired girl and restoring the trial court’s conviction, agreed such centres are needed with safeguards. The Delhi High Court’s guidelines are inspired by the UN Model Law on Justice in Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime. The main objectives include eliciting complete, accurate and reliable testimony from child witnesses, minimizing harm, and preventing ‘secondary victimisation’. Secondary victimisation, or the harm that occurs not due to a criminal act but through the insensitive response of institutions, systems and individuals, is something that vulnerable witnesses often experience in cases of sexual violence. The creation of special centres would have to imply much more than a safe space for recording the testimony of vulnerable witnesses. It should also mean that multiple depositions and hearings at which they have to be present are avoided. In particular, they should not have to needlessly wait for their turn or be subjected to procedural delays. For now, the term ‘vulnerable witnesses’ is limited to children, but the principle may have to be expanded to include adults who may be equally vulnerable to threats and an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Victims of sexual violence and whistle-blowers whose testimony against powerful adversaries may endanger their lives require a conducive atmosphere to depose. Ideally, every district in the country would need a special deposition centre. The infrastructural and financial burden may be huge, but the state will have to provide for it to abide by the overarching principle of protecting vulnerable witnesses.

B) The Burundi way

Burundi’s decision to quit the International Criminal Court is likely to resonate in other African states whose leaders have long complained that they are targeted for investigation by the UN institution. But the obstacles faced by the court in The Hague to hold big global powers to account for human rights violations does not detract from the complicity of the region’s many dictators in subverting democratic institutions to keep their grip on power. Burundi is the first member-country to leave the ICC. In September, a UN commission investigating violence for over two years under President Pierre Nkurunziza recommended a criminal investigation by the court. The panel corroborated the evidence collected by fact-finding missions, which have reported large-scale incidents of sexual abuse, torture, forced disappearances, and summary executions of over 500 people. The flight of refugees to neighbouring countries is said to have exceeded 400,000. All these atrocities were triggered by legitimate and often heroic protests in this small central African state against one man’s lust for power. Mr. Nkurunziza won a third term in 2015, in contravention of a provision in the 2003 peace agreement and despite an opposition boycott. He rejected the two-term limit in his renewal bid, contending that his first tenure should not be counted as he was elected by parliament rather than through a popular vote. His pursuit of power became all the more savage since an aborted coup prior to the elections, and the military and intelligence services seem to have rallied behind his authoritarian agenda. Meanwhile, international pressure to bring the situation in Burundi under control has proved ineffective. The African Union (AU) abandoned plans last year to authorise a peacekeeping mission, despite the commitment codified in the bloc’s charter to intervene to prevent genocide. But that initial enthusiasm dissipated. Securing an extension of presidential terms is not unique to the Burundian leader. Burundi’s example may well be emulated by other countries. Within weeks of a parliamentary vote last year to leave the ICC, South Africa announced its own decision, which has been deferred pending legislative approval. More worrying is the mood across the AU to defy the jurisdiction of the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC. The erroneous logic of the region’s leaders is that since most of the ICC investigations involve African governments, the institution is somehow biased against the continent. Such arguments are unlikely to appeal to their people. In any case, Mr. Nkurunziza’s regime may not be able to evade the international court; the UN Security Council is empowered, under the Rome Statute, to refer complaints against non-member nations. Having unanimously backed constructive engagement, the Council may exercise its authority if the situation remains dire.

Words/ Vocabulary

1) Testifying

Meaning: Give evidence as a witness in a law court.

Example: He testified against his own commander.

Synonym: Declare, Assert, Avow

Antonym: Refute, Hide

2) Courtroom

Meaning: The place or room in which a court of law meets.

Example: A bitter courtroom battle.

Synonym: Tribunal, Law Court

3) Intimidating

Meaning: Frighten or overawe (someone), especially in order to make them do what one wants.

Example: The forts are designed to intimidate the nationalist population.

Synonym: Frighten, Menace

4) Deterred

Meaning: Prevent the occurrence of.

Example: Police officers will also make regular checks to deter the sale and use of drugs in discos and pubs.

Synonym: Prevent, Stop

Antonym: Advance, Assist

5) Deposing

Meaning: Testify to or give (evidence) under oath, typically in a written statement.

Example: He deposed to the fact that he was afraid of the wife and afraid of her family.

Synonym: Swear, Testify

6) Conducive

Meaning: Making a certain situation or outcome likely or possible.

Example: The harsh lights and cameras were hardly conducive to a relaxed atmosphere.

Synonym: Good for, Helpful to

Antonym: Useless, Worthless

7) Vulnerable

Meaning: (of a person) in need of special care, support, or protection because of age, disability, or risk of abuse or neglect.

Example: The scheme will help charities working with vulnerable adults and young people.

Synonym: In danger, In peril

Antonym: Guarded, Protected

8) Amicus curiae

Meaning: An impartial adviser to a court of law in a particular case.

Example: We do not stand in the role of amici in this Court.

9) Acquittal

Meaning: A judgement or verdict that a person is not guilty of the crime with which they have been charged.

Example: The trial resulted in an acquittal.

Synonym: Absolution, Clearing

Antonym: Conviction, Sentence

10) Impaired

Meaning: Weakened or damaged.

Example: An impaired banking system.

Synonym: Damage, Defective

Antonym: Perfect, Healthy

11) Safeguards

Meaning: Protect from harm or damage with an appropriate measure.

Example: A framework which safeguards employees from exploitation.

Synonym: Protect, Shield

Antonym: Hurt, Harm

12) Eliciting

Meaning: Evoke or draw out (a reaction, answer, or fact) from someone.

Example: I tried to elicit a smile from Joanna’

Synonym: Obtain, Bring out

Antonym: Cover, Keep

13) Testimony

Meaning: A formal written or spoken statement, especially one given in a court of law.

Example: The testimony of an eyewitness.

Synonym: Evidence, Affidavit

14) Procedural

Meaning: Relating to an established or official way of doing something.

Example: There had been several procedural errors in dealing with the call.

15) Whistle-blower

Meaning: A person who informs on a person or organization regarded as engaging in an unlawful or immoral activity.

Example: Scheme auditors and actuaries will have to act as whistle-blowers and tell Opra if they think something is wrong.

Synonym: Informant

16) Adversaries

Meaning: One’s opponent in a contest, conflict, or dispute.

Example: Davis beat his old adversary in the quarter-finals.

Synonym: opponent, rival

Antonym: Ally, Friend

17) Endanger

Meaning: Put (someone or something) at risk or in danger.

Example: He was driving in a manner likely to endanger life.

Synonym: Imperil, Jeopardize

Antonym: Guard, Help

18) Overarching

Meaning: Comprehensive or all-embracing.

Example: A single overarching principle.

Synonym: Inclusive, Complete

19) Resonate

Meaning: (of an idea or action) meet with agreement.

Example: The judge’s ruling resonated among many of the women.

20) Detract

Meaning: Diminish the worth or value of (a quality or achievement)

Example: These quibbles in no way detract from her achievement.

Synonym: Belittle, Reduce

Antonym: Develop, Expand

21) Complicity

Meaning: The fact or condition of being involved with others in an activity that is unlawful or morally wrong.

Example: They were accused of complicity in the attempt to overthrow the government.

Synonym: Collusion, Involvement

Antonym: Ignorance, Refusal

22) Subverting

Meaning: Undermine the power and authority of (an established system or institution)

Example: An attempt to subvert democratic government.

Synonym: Destabilize, Unsettle

Antonym: Improve, Aid

23) Corroborated

Meaning: Confirm or give support to (a statement, theory, or finding)

Example: The witness had corroborated the boy’s account of the attack.

Synonym: Confirm, Verify

Antonym: Disclaim, Refute

24) Fact-finding

Meaning: Having the purpose of establishing the facts of an issue.

Example: A fact-finding mission.

Synonym: Examination, Enquiry

25) Executions

Meaning: The carrying out of a sentence of death on a condemned person.

Example: The execution of juveniles is prohibited by international law.

Synonym: Killing, Death Penalty

26) Refugees

Meaning: A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

Example: Tens of thousands of refugees fled their homes.

Synonym: Escapee, Asylum

27) Atrocities

Meaning: An extremely wicked or cruel act, typically one involving physical violence or injury.

Example: A textbook which detailed war atrocities.

Synonym: Savage, Wicked

Antonym: Pleasantry

28) Triggered

Meaning: (of a response) caused by particular action, process, or situation.

Example: A triggered memory of his childhood.

29) Legitimate

Meaning: Conforming to the law or to rules.

Example: His claims to legitimate authority.

Synonym: Legal, Lawful

Antonym: Illegal, Improper

30) Contravention

Meaning: An action which offends against a law, treaty, or other ruling.

Example: The publishing of misleading ads was a contravention of the Act.

Synonym: Breach, Violation

Antonym: Peace, Harmony

31) Contending

Meaning: Assert something as a position in an argument.

Example: He contends that the judge was wrong’

Synonym: Assert, Maintain

Antonym: Retreat, Surrender

32) Tenure

Meaning: The holding of an office.

Example: His tenure of the premiership would be threatened.

Synonym: Incumbency, Term of office

33) Savage

Meaning: Cruel and vicious; aggressively hostile.

Example: A savage attack on the government.

Synonym: Vicious, Brutal

Antonym: Gentle, Polite

34) Aborted

Meaning: An act of aborting a flight, space mission, or other enterprise.

Example: An abort because of bad weather.

Synonym: Terminate, End

Antonym: Begin, Start

35) Coup

Meaning: A sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government.

Example: He was overthrown in an army coup.

Synonym: Overthrow, Takeover

36) Rallied

Meaning: Assemble in a mass meeting.

Example: Up to 50,000 people rallied in the city centre.

Synonym: Gather, Accumulate

Antonym: Disperse, Disorganise

37) Genocide

Meaning: The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group.

Example: News of genocides went unreported.

Synonym: Massacre, Mass killing

38) Dissipated

Meaning: (of a person or way of life) overindulging in sensual pleasures.

Example: Dissipated behaviour.

Synonym: Dissolute, Debauched

Antonym: Virtuous, Saved

39) Emulated

Meaning: Match or surpass (a person or achievement), typically by imitation.

Example: Most rulers wished to emulate Alexander the Great.

Synonym: Imitate, Copy

Antonym: Original

40) Erroneous

Meaning: Wrong; incorrect.

Example: Employers sometimes make erroneous assumptions.

Synonym: Invalid, False

Antonym: True, Correct


THE HINDU EDITORIAL- 31st October 2017


THE HINDU EDITORIAL – 28th October 2017


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THE HINDU EDITORIAL : October 25, 2017