Coordination Meeting of Witness Support Providers
28 Mar 2014
Within the framework of Introduction of Victim/Witness Support Services Project, a two–day coordination meeting for witness support providers was held in Sarajevo on 27th and 28th of March 2014. The meeting gathered ten (10) witness support officers, psychologists and social workers by vocation from courts, prosecutor´s offices and police structures in Brčko, Banja Luka, Mostar, Istočno Sarajevo, Bihać, Travnik, Novi Travnik and Doboj, who were presented with a unique opportunity to exchange experiences and best practices from their daily dealings with victims and witnesses in criminal proceedings.
Next to small group works and open discussions among the present witness support officers, the meeting provided room for a lecture on the topic of ˝Stress and Danger of Professional Burn Out˝, something that is an everyday challenge for professionals working with traumatized witnesses. The lecture was followed by a professional supervision session, conducted by a certified psychological supervisor.
Additionally, an expert from UNICEF shared with the participants the activities undertaken as part of the project ˝Justice for Children 2014 – 2017˝, which proved to be highly valuable for those officers that work with traumatized and stressed children, either victims or witnesses of serious crimes, including domestic and sexual violence. A representative from the NGO Foundation of Local Democracy discussed with the witness support officers the advantages and challenges of establishing and maintaining a witness support network of governmental and non-governmental institutions to serve as a referral mechanisms for witnesses prior to and after their participation in criminal proceedings.
During the past four (4) years, UNDP has established witness support offices at courts and prosecutor´s offices in Banja Luka, Sarajevo, Istočno Sarajevo, Bihać, Mostar, Brčko, Travnik and Novi Travnik. In addition to reconstruction works, this process has included employment and training of psychologists and social workers who provide support to witnesses in criminal proceedings. This activity ensures that all existing departments provide support in the same way regardless of the absence of an umbrella coordinating mechanism.