The Witness Protection Department is the only department in B&H providing adequate forms of protection of and support to protected witnesses. Since 2004, when it became operational, until today, the Witness Protection Department has provided different forms of protection to over 1000 witnesses who testified before the Court B&H and entity courts. Lives of witnesses under protection of this Department as well as the lives of their families have never been brought in danger. All employees of the Department have undergone special trainings in order to be able to perform their tasks professionally.
The Witness Protection Department provides support and protection to witnesses in accordance with relevant regulations in order to ensure efficient protection of witnesses prior to, during and after criminal proceedings. Also, the Department decides on and implements measures with regard to witnesses under witness protection programmes as well as foreign witnesses in B&H in compliance with agreements or arrangements between B&H and other countries, improves cooperation and exchanges information with relevant B&H institutions and non-governmental organisations as well as other foreign law enforcement agencies and international organisations dealing with witness protection, processes data and keeps required records particularly taking into account the security of data and information related to witness protection in criminal proceedings, continuously follows-up regulations related to witness protection and if needed, provides expert opinion about regulations, performs other tasks in accordance with the law.
Internal Organisational Units
- Protection Section
- Operations Support Section
The Protection Section provides protection to witnesses in accordance with relevant regulations governing witness protection and handles witnesses according to prescribed procedures, maintains the highest level of personal witness security, protects identity and integrity of witnesses particularly witnesses included in the protection programme and their closest relatives, continuously follows-up security situation and level of vulnerability of witnesses, prepares plans and implements protection measures. The Section cooperates and exchanges necessary information with the Agency’s organisational units, evaluates and revises current measures and needs of witnesses included in the protection programme, makes proposals about changes of the protection programme elements and measures and takes care of their implementation.
Operations Support Section
The Operations Support Section makes preparations in relation to implementation of witness protection programmes, handles witnesses in accordance with prescribed procedures, implements measures of protection and support to witnesses and individuals included in witness protection programmes, continuously follows-up security situation and level of vulnerability of witnesses. The Section cooperates and exchanges necessary information with other Agency’s organisational units, prosecutors, judges and other authorities and institutions dealing with witness protection, evaluates and revises current measures of protection and support as well as needs of the witnesses included in the protection programme and makes proposals about changes of witness protection and support measures. Moreover, the Section participates in ensuring and providing documents required for maintenance of temporarily altered identities for individuals included in the protection programme and if required for employees of the Section, implements international agreements with witness protection units of other countries regarding relocation of witnesses. The Section conducts preliminary cost assessment for witnesses before inclusion in the protection programme, renting and use of safe facilities, participates in resolving complaints of witnesses in connection with their treatment while in the protection programme, and performs other tasks in accordance with the law.
Frequently Asked Questions
A „protected witness“ status may be approved only by The Court of B&H upon a request by a prosecutor ex officio, upon a request of the suspected, indicted person or his/her defence attorney. The request submitted by some of the afore mentioned has to include information about a witness identity and trial in which the witness is to give a statement, facts proving that security of a witness or his family is endangered due to his/her participation in proceedings as well as circumstances that a witness is to be questioned about.
The Witness Protection Programme is created to ensure a complete and efficient witness protection in order to enable the witness to testify freely and openly in the course and after criminal proceedings before the Court of B&H. It does not necessarily mean that a need for his/her protection is ended after finalisation of the criminal proceedings or after the witness provides his/her statement. The protection of the witness may be continued and the Witness Protection Department decides on form, location and duration of protection.
The obligations of a witness towards the Witness Protection Programme and vice versa are defined upon making a decision on his/her admission to and eligibility for the witness protection programme. All the obligations are defined by a special and binding contract.
It is necessary to mention that these are very specific situations when it comes to relocation of a witness outside the B&H Territory. The first starting element is consideration of a level of vulnerability of a witness, the scope and way in which his/her personal or property security is threatened that are to be specifically and thoroughly assessed by the Witness Protection Department in accordance with the Law on the Witness Protection Programme of B&H.
The Law allows for the modification of voice, assigning pseudonyms to witnesses or witnessing via video link. The measure to be applied is decided by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A person given a status of a protected witness enters the Witness Protection Programme. Apart from the person who is given the status of a protected witness, his/her family or relatives and person or persons selected by the witness may also enter the Witness Protection Programme. For each of these persons detailed checks are performed and the final decision is made by the Witness Protection Department.
The secrecy level of the witness protection is extremely high. In addition to the secrecy within the Witness Protection Department, defined by its internal Rulebooks or the Rulebooks of SIPA, the witness protection is also covered by the Article 240 of the CC of B&H, "Revealing of Identity of a Protected Witness", which additionally refers to all other persons that might in any way discover the identity of a protected witness or some other detail in relation to him/her. Minutes from the hearings of witnesses and other documents, upon completion of criminal procedure, are archived and kept in an appropriate manner for the time period of up to 30 years.
You should consult with your attorney, prosecutor or submit such request to the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which gives its final assessment. The Law on the Protection of Intimidated and Vulnerable Witnesses can be applied to you.
Yes, there is a difference. An Intimidated Witness is the witness whose personal safety or the security of his/her family is threatened due to his/her involvement in proceedings, as a result of threats, intimidations or similar actions related to his/her testimony or a witness who considers that there is a reasonable ground for fear that such threat might be a consequence of his/her testimony. A Vulnerable Witness is the witness who is seriously physically or psychologically traumatized by circumstances under which a criminal offence was committed, or who suffers from serious physical disorders making him/her extremely vulnerable, or a child or minor.