…If there is no issues concerning skilled labourers 

Phub Dem | Paro

Two girls aged 14 were raped and impregnated in Punakha last year. One of them has already given birth, while the other is in her last trimester.

However, the accused have denied the charge and are roaming scot-free due to the delay of DNA test results.

According to data with police, results for more than DNA 1000 samples from 137 forensic cases that were sent abroad over the past years are still awaited. In addition, 15 forensic cases that require DNA tests could not be sent for examination due to the pandemic.

The total number of pending cases with the judiciary in 2018 stood at 2,402, of which 202 cases were pending for more than a year.

Officer commanding of  Punakha, Chador Namgay, said that such incidents were on the rise and that lack of a forensic laboratory further had impeded justice during the pandemic.

He said that forensic services from third countries not only caused delays but also were expensive. “The police cannot keep the accused detained for a long time,” he said, adding that the victim often faced difficulties in processing the child’s census.

The issues were highlighted at the five-day joint investigation and prosecution training for officials of the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) and the Office of Attorney General (OAG) being held in Paro.

Head of the Austrian Development Agency’s country office in Bhutan, Gerhard Adam, said that the establishment of the lab would complete before the end of next year if there was no shortage of skilled labourers. “The groundwork was already done but the pandemic delayed the progress.”

He said that it was the last Austrian project in the country and that it was closing country office after more than 30 years.

Speaking at the opening, Attorney General Lungten Dubgyur said that the training was expected to strengthen professionalism, build capacity, and sensitise officials on fundamental human rights, constitutional principles, due process of law, fair trial, the rule of law, and access to justice. “Having a DNA forensic lab would strengthen investigation and delivery of justice.”

As per the project report with Gross National Happiness Commission, the non-availability of a well-equipped forensic laboratory in the country, especially the DNA testing facilities, has not only delayed the delivery of justice services but also burdened litigants and service users.

The training also highlighted the need for a uniform prosecution and investigation system by the implementing agencies. An official from OAG said that police and OAG had different prosecution methods.

The attorney general said that the training will adopt a common investigation procedure and a uniform charge sheet. The existing uniform charge sheet and prosecution manual will also be updated.