Protecting witnesses

3 December - Witnesses are the foundation of well-functioning criminal justice systems as their cooperation with law enforcement and judicial authorities is essential to prosecuting crimes successfully. Protecting witnesses from intimidation or physical threats from crime suspects is therefore a requirement to uphold the rule of law.

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime calls upon countries to take appropriate measures to protect witnesses. To this end, UNODC has organized a series of regional meetings with experts from law enforcement, prosecutorial and judicial authorities of Member States to develop a set of internationally recognised good practices for use in the establishment and operation of witness protection programmes.

As a result of these consultations, UNODC is developing a set of guidelines covering procedural protection as well as the establishment of covert witness protection units. This publication will reflect experiences from different geographical regions and legal systems, together with existing literature, previous and ongoing work by UNODC as well as other international and regional organizations.

While gathering the good practices in witness protection, UNODC consulted more than 60 Member States and international organizations such as Europol, Eurojust, the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunals for former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, Interpol and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI).

UNODC has also developed a model witness protection law for Latin America and is developing a model agreement on international cooperation in the area of witness protection. Next year, expert group meetings will be held to universalize the model law and finalize the model agreement, improving witness protection work worldwide.