Capacity Needs Assessment for Enhancing Provision of Victim/Witness support During the Pre-investigative Stage of Criminal Proceedings in BiH
With the enactment of the Law on Protection of Witnesses under Threat and Vulnerable Witnesses a framework was established to provide certain protections to victims/witnesses in criminal cases. This act in addition to various protective measures provides for support to be given to witnesses, when required. Additionally, in 2004 the Law on Witness Protection Program in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) was enacted.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), since the early stages was actively involved in improving the position of victims and witnesses in criminal cases. Our publication entitled "Needs Assessment in the Field of Victims/Witness support in Bosnia and Herzegovina", published in 2010, set the framework for the establishment of a unified mechanism for providing support to victims/witnesses.
Such a system relies on the establishment of Witness Support Offices (WSO) at the cantonal/district courts and prosecutors' offices and the Brčko District in which a psychologist or social worker, in an adequately equipped surrounding, is available for victims/witnesses who need support during the criminal proceedings.
To date, UNDP Project, “Support to Processing of War Crimes Cases in BiH” (SPWCC) enabled the establishment of a unified mechanism for providing support at five locations in BiH, with the ultimate goal that is made available to its entire territory.
However, UNDP is aware of the fact that the provision of victim/witness support is an obligation of the state, which does not begin with the investigative stage or end once a verdict to which there is no appeal is passed. Experience in those prosecutor’s offices having a WSO pointed to the fact that the inclusion of support and protection at an earlier stage (during the pre-investigative stage) could improve the situation for victims/witnesses within the system, as well as facilitate more intensive cooperation of victims/witnesses in reporting and investigation of crime.
Based on such information, UNDP has developed this study in order to assess the condition that exists in the provision of victim/witness support during the pre-investigative stage of criminal proceedings in BiH.