UNODC and Iran Continue their Cooperation on the Witnesses and Victims Protection Programme
10 July 2014 - The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) both contain important provisions for the protection and support of witnesses and victims, requiring that each State Party take appropriate measures to provide effective protection from potential retaliation or intimidation for witnesses and victims. In accordance with these provisions, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) supports states in assisting and protecting victims and witnesses through various forms of technical assistance designed to strengthen witness and victim protection programmes and strategies, including for example, legislative assistance, awareness-raising and training programmes targeting criminal justice authorities, specialized support and advice to assist in the establishment of witness protection units, and strengthening international cooperation for the protection of witnesses.
In June 2011, UNODC Country Office in Iran and the national authorities launched a series of joint activities on the protection of witnesses and victims of crime, starting with the first institutional workshop on the issue, which was attended by a high number of Iranian Police officers and heads of different security departments and offices, with the participation of experts on witness protection from Norway, Italy, and South Africa. The event established for successful cooperation on the Witnesses and Victims Protection Programme and was followed by a second workshop in November 2013, which also witnessed active participation by officials and experts from the Judiciary, Prosecutor General Bureau and various police units.
On 4 and 5 March 2014, UNODC Iran and INTERPOL Tehran, in cooperation with the Judiciary, co-organized the Third National Meeting on the Witnesses and Victims Protection Programme. The meeting was attended by over 50 police officers from different relevant units, in addition to a number of legal and judicial experts, and was enriched by the participation of international experts from Australia and Italy.
The event was opened on 4 March 2014 by the UNODC Representative in Iran, Mr. Leik Boonwaat, and the Deputy Director General of INTERPOL Tehran, Colonel Makhdoum. In his opening statement, Mr. Boonwaat emphasized the importance of the Witnesses and Victims Protection Programme in the context of combatting corruption and organized crime, highlighting the importance of maintaining constant contact with witnesses and victims as they can share critical information on criminal cases with the police and court. "That is why witness and victim protection at national and international levels is a significant need," he said. He also referred to the role played by UNODC, as the guardian of UNCAC and UNTOC, in promoting the issue of witness and victim protection through establishing contact with Member States in this respect and disseminating the relevant internationally recognized good practices. Colonel Makhdoum, for his part, referred to the expertise of the Iranian Police in combating crimes, while stressing also the rapid pace of globalization which has led to the increase in transnational organized crimes. He pointed out the need to improve national capacities to meet the challenge and emphasized the importance of cooperation with UNODC in enhancing the knowledge and capacities of the national authorities in the area of witness and victim protection.
The two-day meeting provided the participants with the opportunity to study and assess the capacities of the national legislation with regard to witness and victim protection, set the related objectives at the operational level, define the legal and operational requirements needed to structure and establish a relevant police unit, and to outline modes and modalities of serving citizens in this respect. It also provided a forum for exploring best practices and case studies from model countries, presented by the international experts. As a result, the subject of victim and witness protection was studied from the viewpoints of 3 legal systems: the national/Islamic system, civil law, and common law, which were presented by experts from Iran, Italy, and Australia, respectively.
Moreover, the workshop highlighted the necessity and importance of active and continuous interaction with the national judicial partners as well as international sister agencies in the field of witness and victim protection. The participants were also provided with copies of UNTOC and UNCAC and with the UNODC manual on "Good Practices in the Protection of Witnesses in Criminal Proceedings Involving Organized Crime", with the aim of familiarizing them with these key international legal instruments and to advocate the ratification of UNTOC.
UNODC Iran hopes that the valuable cooperation with the Iranian authorities will continue and expand towards stronger assistance and protection to victims and witnesses of crime, which is an issue of rising importance in the fight against corruption and organized crime considering the pace with which these crimes are diversifying and growing on a global scale. In the words of the UNODC Executive Director, Mr. Yury Fedotov: "Where the criminals are smart, we must be smarter, where the criminals are sophisticated, we must be even more sophisticated and where crime transcends borders, so must our cooperation. This means more joint operations, greater intelligence sharing and better witness protection and assistance to the victims of transnational organized crime".