Witness Protection Programme


The importance of witness protection as a tool in bringing perpetrators of all forms of organized and serious crime to justice The cooperation of victims and other witnesses who can provide important evidence can be key to achieving successful investigations and prosecutions of offenders of all forms of serious and organized crimes. Yet one of the challenges faced by many criminal justice systems is obtaining such cooperation. In a global and highly mobile world, the challenges posed by protecting and assisting victims and witnesses of serious crimes are compounded.

Insider witnesses or those who have a close relationship to the offender(s) or criminal/terrorist group may be able to provide the kind of testimonial evidence that is crucial to the prosecution but will be under the threat of death for their cooperation. Other forms of witnesses may also be reluctant to give information and evidence because of perceived or actual intimidation or threats against themselves or members of their family. Evidence suggests that victims and witnesses who receive appropriate support and protection, when needed, are more likely to cooperate with the criminal justice system in bringing perpetrators of serious and organized crime to justice.

Articles 24 and 25 of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, article 6 of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, article 5 of the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants as well as article 32 of the Corruption Convention require State parties to take appropriate measures within their means to provide effective protection as well as assistance to victims and witnesses of crime.

GPTOC cooperates informally with the International Criminal Court and other international bodies.

For the implementation of its activities, UNODC works closely with Europol and the witness protection agencies of Member States.

Protection measures that may be provided

•• Assistance before and during trial to cope with the psychological and practical obstacles of testifying
•• Police measures to enhance physical security before, during and after the hearing or trial
•• Court procedures to hide the identity of the witness (such as shields, disguises or voice distortion), to limit the disclosure of information concerning the identity or whereabouts of witnesses, or to ensure the witness' safety while testifying
•• Relocation and change of identity


Technical assistance offered

GPTOC, in cooperation with established witness protection authorities and Europol, supports States in
adopting and strengthening policies, procedures and measures to support and protect witnesses and
victims including:

•• Legal and institutional assessments
•• Assistance in drafting or strengthening laws and regulations
•• Awareness-raising and training programmes targeting criminal justice authorities
•• Provision of advisors and specialized support to assist in the establishment of witness protection units, including developing standard operating procedures, appropriate structures and staffing arrangements
•• Strengthening international cooperation for the protection of witnesses



•• Manual on Good practices in the protection of witnesses in criminal proceedings involving organized crime

Arabic  -  English  -  French  -  Russian  -  Spanish

•• Guidelines on justice in matters involving child victims and witnesses of crime as well as its accompanying online training modules

English  -  French  -  Spanish



                                Karen Kramer                                                    Gerhard Van Rooyen

                                Senior Expert                                                Witness Protection Adviser

                         karen.kramer@unodc.org                                  gerhard.van.rooyen@unodc.org



is an initiative of


financed by the Government of the United States.