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Cooperation in Criminal Justice: Witness Protection in the Fight against Organised Crime and Corruption

Bosna-i-Hercegovina-EU (1)A 7 million Euro EU funded project for the Western Balkan region, “Cooperation in Criminal Justice: Witness Protection in the Fight against Organised Crime and Corruption (WINPRO II)” was inaugurated today in Sarajevo in the premises of the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Continuous improvement in the witness protection programmes in the all Western Balkans countries is at the heart of the project. A team of experts from various EU Member States with proven practical experience will be providing their support. The overall objective is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness in combating transnational, organised and serious crimes, as well as corruption. More specifically, the objective is to strengthen cooperation to combat organised crime and corruption at regional and European level. This will be done by reinforcing the institutional capacity of the Witness Protection Units and other relevant agencies to offer protection to witnesses and collaborators of justice, before, during and after the trial, within and/or outside their territory.

The project is implemented by Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas in partnership with the UK Ministry of Justice and their associate, EUROPOL, based in The Hague. The total cost of the action for the 36 month duration of the project is 7 million Euro funded by the European Union from IPA 2012.

Severin Strohal, Head of Operations Section for Justice and Home Affairs and Public Administration Reform at the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina said: “Ensuring that witnesses can testify in safety, and without suffering intimidation is not to be considered as a luxury but as an essential element of the judicial process. It is essential for the investigation and prosecution of any crime. The European Union Witness Protection Programs are playing an important role in the fight against crime, which undermines economic and political development.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina, in view of its European Union membership perspective, will need to demonstrate a track record of investigation and prosecution of corruption and organised crime cases. In order to achieve this, a functioning Witness Protection Programme will be crucial. There is a clear need for a certain level of harmonisation of different national programmes, enhancing capacities of witness protection units, standardisation of processes such as the relocation of witnesses, and education of witness protection officers.

To achieve these objectives, the main activities of the project will be: the promotion of regional and international cooperation with EU Member States and EUROPOL; further harmonisation of national legislation systems and alignment to EU requirements; upgrading and reinforcement of the Witness Protection Units structure through the development of their operational and professional capacities, including integrity, financial autonomy and improved access to and utilization of intelligence; protection of the witness before, during and after a trial through strengthened inter-agency operational cooperation at national and regional level, especially strengthened cooperation of Witness Protection Units with prosecution and judiciaries, stated the Delegation of the EU to BIH.

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