Witness support offices established in Travnik/Novi Travnik and Bihać

Sep 12, 2013

Uniform approach to provision of support services to witnesses and victims in criminal proceedings is made available in cantonal courts in Novi Travnik and Bihać, as well as cantonal prosecutor´s offices in Una – Sana and Central Bosnia cantons through official opening of Witness Support Offices, established as part of UNDP Project ˝Introduction of victim and witness support services˝, begun on 12th September, 2013.

In cooperation with the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH, and with the financial support of the Government of the United States of America, UNDP is working on spreading the mechanisms that ensure equal treatment and approach to victim and witness support and protection in criminal proceedings to cantonal courts and prosecutor´s offices in Una – Sana and Central Bosnia cantons.

To date, within the framework of UNDP Project, six integrated witness support office were established and equipped in cantonal/district courts and prosecutor´s office in Sarajevo, Banja Luka and East Sarajevo, all with the goal of providing support to victims and witnesses in criminal cases during the investigation and trail phases.

„Thus far, more than 700 victims and witnesses in 400 criminal cases have received much needed support through efficient, integrated and sustainable witness support offices. Victim and witness support model, developed by UNDP in BiH, is unique and the most successful example in the region", stated Amela Ćosović-Medić, Justice and Security Sector Coordinator within the UNDP.

Professional staff in these offices, having undergone special educational course, is providing support to witnesses before, during and after their participation in criminal proceedings, in order for their testimony to go as painless as possible, especially for those who are coming in contact with the justice system for the first time.

"American Government has secured the funds for the establishment of Victim and Witness Support Offices in Bihać, Novi Travnik and Travnik because we have recognized the special needs of witnesses for support and protection – especially in war crimes cases and cases of sexual violence. We are happy to, together with the UNDP, support Bosnia and Herzegovina in fulfilling its obligations towards vulnerable persons and to support those who are brave enough to speak against injustice during court proceedings", said Ruth E. Plagenhoef, Permanent Legal Advisor at the Embassy of the United States of America, U.S. Department of Justice - OPDAT.

Through establishment and functioning of such offices, judicial institutions are fulfilling one of the key recommendations from the Structural Dialogue within the framework of the stabilization and accession process when it comes to functioning of judicial institutions, processing of war crimes cases and witness support and protection mechanisms.

Implementation of the Project Introduction of victim and witness support services represents a continuation of the process of establishment of a uniform witness support mechanism throughout BiH that UNDP, together with the HJPC BiH, already started in 2010.