PROMOTING ACCESS TO JUSTICE

OREDI CALVINE: Funding is key in witness protection

This is necessary for ensuring that they are not harmed

In Summary

• Under Article 50(9) as read together with Article 48, the government is obligated to protect victims and witnesses as a means of promoting access to justice.

• The protection ensures that convictions are made because of the testimony provided by witnesses in an environment that is safe and secure and devoid of life threats.

Booklet containing the Constitution of Kenya.
Booklet containing the Constitution of Kenya.
Image: FILE

Witness protection is recognised as a fundamental human right in the administration of justice by various instruments of national, regional and international law.

The Constitution of Kenya under Article 50 (8) provides for the right to protection of witnesses or vulnerable persons.

Under Article 50 (9) as read together with Article 48, the government is obligated to protect victims and witnesses as a means of promoting access to justice.

It is further emphasised by the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols.

The protocol calls upon state parties to introduce appropriate measures to prevent witness intimidation, coercion, corruption or bodily injury, and to strengthen international cooperation in this regard.

For effective witness protection, sufficient funding is necessary for ensuring that witnesses are not harmed while in the protection programme.

Witness protection is capital intensive because it involves having all-around protection of witnesses by protection officers, procuring suitable safe houses, meeting their daily needs and those of their dependents, transport costs to and from court during hearings and integrating them after testimony.

Countries in Africa and Europe with established witness protection programmes such as South Africa, the Netherlands and Israel invest heavily in witness protection.

Serious cases such as murder, corruption, terrorism and trafficking require the protection of witnesses to avoid threats and intimidation from perpetrators and their accomplices.

The protection ensures that convictions are made because of the testimony provided by witnesses in an environment that is safe and secure and devoid of life threats.

Efforts should be made to adequately fund the Witness Protection Agency just like the EACC, ODPP, DCI and Judiciary are funded.

The agencies work together in the justice chain and rely on WPA to protect witnesses in high profile cases yet WPA is the least funded.

 

The writer is based in Vihiga

 

Edited by Kiilu Damaris