Workshop on Identification of Special Measures for Witness Protection in Terrorism Cases - The Hague, Netherlands

26 - 29 August, The Hague, Netherlands. In efforts to improve the witness protection system in Pakistan in the context of terrorism cases, the UNODC's Pakistan's Action to Counter Terrorism (PACT) project with the financial support of the European Union organized a workshop on the 'Identification of Special Measures for Witness Protection in Terrorism Cases' in The Hague, Netherlands from 26- 29 August 2019. A delegation of 26 members from a diverse range of institutions of Pakistan including National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), Prosecution Department, Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and UNODC representatives attended the workshop headed by Mr. Muzzafar Ali Sheikh, Additional IG, CTD Balochistan. 

The overall aim of this workshop was to improve the ability to protect the witness from harm of the defendant and criminal networks by introducing the delegation to Europol's Witness Protection Network, areas of good practice, opportunities and benefits of membership, and possible technical assistance and cooperation.  Furthermore, the workshop invited experts of witness protection program from Australia and other countries which have successfully implemented witness protection system to further strengthen their criminal justice systems. The guest speakers and presenters included Mr. Philip Divett, an expert from UNODC; Mr. Keir Davis from Australian Federal Police; Mr. Arif Kamal Noon, Prosecutor General of Punjab; Ms. Jagoda Walorek, expert from UNODC; Mr. Sohail Chaudhry, DIG from Punjab Police, Pakistan;  ms. Natacha Schauder, Senior Manager Services Unit of ICC; Mr. Jan Rozendal, Head of Investigation Unit Counter Terrorism of Dutch CT Division; Ms. Karolina Wienema from External and EU Institutional Affairs Unit; Mr. Victor Sousa, Europol WP Network Coordinator; and Mr. Vitor Sousa from Europol Witness Protection Network Coordinator- Special tactics team.

The first day of the workshop commenced with an introductory session organised to introduce the delegation members from Pakistan and Europol which was followed by an opening speech by Mr.  Divett, in which he introduced the delegation with the general challenges faced in Witness Protection projects and also shared the agenda of the workshop for the next three days. After the formal opening of the workshop, first two presentations were delivered by Mr. Divett on 'Good Practices related to Witness Protection' and 'Various models of Witness Protection' in which he introduced several pioneering practices and models of witness protection to form the baseline of the workshop by equipping the delegation members with background knowledge on witness protection systems. Third presentation of the day was delivered by Mr. Davis on the 'Witness Protection Model of Australia (Federal/Provincial Coordination Mechanism)' to further capacitate the delegation with the successful implementation model and plan adopted by the Government of Australia at Federal as well as Provincial level.  His presentation was deemed as significant by the delegation as the model could be easily replicated to Pakistan's prevailing system keeping the local context in view.

The second day of the workshop basically remained Pakistan-centric with a focus on the prevailing situation of witness protection system at the Federal and provincial level. Mr. Arif Kamal Noon, Prosecutor General of Punjab, led the first session on 'Review of Provincial legislations in Pakistan (Punjab and Sindh)'. The current status of Witness Protection System in these two provinces was reviewed with a focus on the persistent challenges. It was also discussed that these two provinces have pioneered in developing a systematic framework towards witness protection as compared to other parts of the country, however, the implementation gaps need to be filled through the suggested way forward. Following this, another presentation was given by Ms. Jagoda Walorek in which she deliberated upon the 'Policy Guidelines on establishing a Witness Protection in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP)' after which a group discussion on 'Challenges and Implications from the perspective of witnesses' was conducted under the moderation of Ms. Jagoda. As a part of the conclusion drafted from the discussion session, a roadmap was devised which centred on three key principles: Legislation, Governance and the Witness Protection Unit. The delegation also drafted SOP's providing a set of instructions to government officials for ensuring effective execution of their responsibilities and roles in the realm of governance.  Furthermore, the presenters suggestively stated for a need for engaging a point- of- contact at federal government level that can coordinate intra-agency agreements and assistance; since Punjab and Sindh already have enacted witness protection legislations on a provincial level.

On the third and fourth day, visits to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and EUROPOL were organized for the delegation, respectively. As a part of introducing the delegation from Pakistan at ICC, Mr. Muzzafar Ali Sheikh- head of delegation gave his opening speech. Mr. Sheikh underlined the significance of this workshop and the various planned sessions which would assist in enhancing the capacities of the members of the delegation. He further stressed on the need of vigilance, cooperation and support of the people in the dispensation of criminal justice system to prevent the terrorism activities; and concluded his speech with appreciation for the European Union (EU) and UNODC for catering to the growing need of capacity enhancement on the subject.  After the opening remarks, Mr. Sohail Choudhary- DIG of CTD Punjab gave a short presentation on Pakistan's Witness Protection Program in the specific context of terrorism cases. The previous scenario as well as the progress made was also highlighted alongside the objectives of the visit. Mr. Chaudhry also discussed the key challenges and areas of interest for future cooperation between Pakistan and ICC so that improvements could be made on a holistic level. Following Mr. Choudhary's presentation, Ms. Natacha Schauder- Senior Manager Services Unit from ICC deliberated on the legal and institutional frameworks of the ICC on Witness Protection, the challenges faced and areas of good practice. The delegation was informed that ICC grants various types of allowances and physical protection to witnesses when they are called to give testimony. Afterwards the delegation was taken for a visit to the main Court Room and were given the details of the Court Proceedings. In the later part of the day, Mr. Jan Rozendal- Head of Investigation Unit Counter Terrorism briefed the delegation on the overall structure of Counter Terrorism division in the Netherlands and the modus operandi adopted to counter any terrorism related incidents in the country. The experiences and approaches used by the Dutch Police to tackle down situations were also shared.

On the fourth day, the delegation was welcomed by Mr. Dietrich Neumann- Head of Corporate Affairs Europol in which he expressed his gratitude to the delegation for attending the well-articulated workshop and its various sessions. He also believed that this event has been fruitful for the delegates. Following the welcome remarks by Mr. Neumann, a presentation was given by Ms. Karolina Wienama aimed towards adding more to the general knowledge of the delegates on the Mission and Objectives of EUROPOL. Ms. Wienama also deliberated upon EUROPOL's role in Counter Terrorism among the member nations and the consensus it has achieved from the participating countries in strengthening its shield against terrorism. The day concluded with Mr. Victor Sousa's (EUROPOL WP Network coordinator) presentation where the delegates were briefed on EUROPOL and its operational dynamics on Witness Protection. The session also shed light on EUROPOL's members, benefits of the Witness Protection program and resources available to the members. Afterwards, Mr. Sousa moderated a discussion session for reinforcing the conceptual learning of participants. The visits to ICC and EUROPOL remained interactive in nature as the visiting delegation presented on the situation of Witness Protection (WP) in terrorism cases in Pakistan, objectives of the visit, and areas of interest and possible technical assistance while ICC and EUROPOL deliberated upon on the legal and institutional frameworks of WP, challenges and areas of good practice. These visits provided a concrete platform for exchange of knowledge on witness protection systems and best practices. 

A closing ceremony was also held on the later part of the day in which Mr. Francois Zablot- Counter Terrorism Expert, EU Pakistan, distributed certificates amongst the delegation members. The delegation utilized the platform to extend their special thanks to the EUROPOL and UNODC for organizing a comprehensive and informative workshop on Witness Protection and proclaimed that this study tour remained beneficial for the members of the delegation where new methodologies and techniques were learned on improving Witness Protection in Pakistan based on their attained learnings from the models adopted in the European Union states and other countries under the constantly changing global dynamics.