NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 12 – Chief Justice Martha Koome has lauded efforts to entrench witness protection in the country singling out Kenya and South Africa as pacesetters in the continent.
CJ Koome made the remarks during an event on Friday to mark the 10th anniversary of Kenya Witness Protection Agency (WPA).
“To elicit cooperation from witnesses demands that states put in place well-functioning Witness Protection Programmes which ensure that threatened and intimidated witnesses are protected,” she said.
“I therefore commend Kenya and South Africa which have led the way for other African countries in enacting laws and operationalizing such programmes,” the CJ added.
The Chief Justice officially opened a regional conference on witness protection hosted by WPA as it marked its 1oth anniversary.
The conference organized on the theme: Harnessing shared experiences to enhance collaboration and linkages for effective witness protection in Africa, brought together international experts, stakeholders and partners to share good practice, challenges and share experiences on witness protection.
Established under the 2006 Witness Protection Act, the Witness Protection Agency in Kenya came into operation on 1 September 2008.
The is mandated to provide special protection – on behalf of the state – to persons who have important information and are facing potential risk or intimidation, due to their cooperation with the prosecution, the police and other law enforcement agencies.
In her remarks at the opening ceremony, the Chief Justice also expressed her gratitude and thanked the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for supporting the setting up of the Agency over ten years ago.
Since 2017, through the UNODC’s Programme on Legal Empowerment and Aid Delivery in Kenya (PLEAD) and with generous financial support from the European Union, the UNODC has been providing technical assistance to enhance the quality and efficiency of the Agency’s service delivery.
Delivering her remarks at the conference, UNODC Deputy Regional Director, Sylvie Bertrand congratulated the Agency in reaching its tenth anniversary in providing witness protection.
“This regional conference is a testament to the Agency’s resolve in strengthening collaboration among key stakeholders in Kenya, by learning from witness protection agencies and criminal justice actors, within the region and across the world,” Bertrand said.
“Witness protection is a fundamental human right. In the years ahead, UNODC will continue to support the Agency in offering efficient and effective witness protection services to the citizens of Kenya,” she added.
Deputy Head of Delegation, EU Delegation to Kenya, Katrin Hagemann in attendance at the conference said the European Union regards witness protection as an indispensable tool in the fight against organised crime, corruption and terrorism.
She added that witnesses play a major role in criminal proceedings, and their testimonies help courts to establish facts and subsequently contribute to justice being served.
“Through the Programme for Legal Empowerment and Aid Delivery in Kenya, (PLEAD), the European Union supports the fight against serious crimes including corruption by supporting the protection of threatened witnesses,” Hagemann said.
“The support we provide to the Witness Protection Agency through PLEAD, goes a long way in enabling the Agency to deliver its mandate in the justice chain, while safeguarding safety and the welfare of witnesses,” she asserted.
The regional conference marked the Witness Protection Agency’s second gathering with the first conference taking place in November 2009, which facilitated the set up and operationalization of the Agency.
Serving for the last thirteen years at the Witness Protection Agency, and being the longest serving Director, Alice Ondieki remarked that there is a need for a regional witness protection association in Africa.
“It is expected that the outcomes of the conference will lead to firstly, increased awareness on witness protection, and the establishment of a network of regional and international contacts and focal points, for bench-marking and collaborative initiatives. Secondly, the establishment of a working group on the formation of a regional association on witness protection,” Ondieki stated.