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Crime Victim-Witness Protection

Sex trafficking laws should not only ensure that trafficking victims are granted rights, but also affirmatively grant protection from harm or the threat of harm during proceedings against their traffickers. Other witnesses, family members and persons close to trafficking victims must also be protected from retaliation and intimidation.  These protections should be in place before, during and after the legal proceedings.

Those responsible for victim and witness protection should consult Module 12 of the UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners, which describes appropriate protection measures to be taken by first responders, investigators, and the judicial system in human trafficking cases. (See: UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners, Module 12, 2009)     

Before interviewing trafficking victims and potential witnesses, law enforcement and first responders should also consult Modules 8 (adults), 9 (children), and 10 (use of interpreters) UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners, which provide suggestions for how to interview trafficking victims, including interview checklists.

See:

UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners, 2009

Victims and witnesses should not be deported to their home country if they are likely to be harmed or threatened there.  Governments must ensure safe return or relocation to a third country if the former is not possible. (See:  Annotated Guide to the Complete UN Trafficking Protocol, International Human Rights Law Group, Art. 24, 2002; UN Trafficking Protocol, Arts. 6 & 7; UNODC Model Law Against Trafficking in Persons, Arts. 21-23) For more information, see the section on Immigration Provisions.

Sex trafficking laws must ensure the safety of all witnesses, including when testimony is given. Drafters should review evidentiary rules to assess whether testimony may be given through the use of communications technology to protect victims from being re-traumatized and witnesses from retaliation. In some countries, such audio- or video-taped testimony is already allowed in cases of child sexual abuse. In such countries, those standards should be applied to children who are trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. 

Finally, drafters should consider including provisions in the law to permit relocation of witnesses and victims. (See: Annotated Guide to the Complete UN Trafficking Protocol, Global Rights, Art. 24, 2002)

Tool:

Amnesty International, Six-point Checklist on Justice for Violence Against Women (2010). The checklist is organized by steps that victims must take in order to report a crime and seek redress through the criminal justice system. It also identifies laws, policies and practices which still need to be reformed and other obstacles to the successful implementation of the legal framework. Available in Arabic, English, French, Mandarin and Spanish.

 

Illustrative Examples:

Several countries allow for a variety of alternatives to live, in-court testimony for victims or witnesses testifying against traffickers. Drafters should review all relevant witness protection codes to ensure that a victim of trafficking is protected while still upholding a defendant’s right to due process. 

  • Canada’s Criminal Code, Section 486.2(2) Other witnesses-

(2) Despite section 650, in any proceedings against an accused, the judge or justice may, on application of the prosecutor or a witness, order that the witness testify outside the court room or behind a screen or other device that would allow the witness not to see the accused if the judge or justice is of the opinion that the order is necessary to obtain a full and candid account from the witness of the acts complained of. (See: Criminal Code of Canada, Section 486.2(2), Government of Canada)

  • Criminal Procedure Code for the Republic of Moldova

Article 110, Sections (1),(4), (5). Special ways of hearing a witness and his/her protection
(1) Should sound evidence exist that life, physical integrity or liberty of a witness, or of a close relative to him/her, are in danger in connection with the statements that s/he makes, then the instruction judge, or as the case may be, the court may permit to hold the hearing of this witness without his/her physical presence in the place where the criminal proceeding is carried out or in the courtroom. Instead the hearing is done with the assistance of technical means as stipulated in this article, provided that there exist adequate technical ways for hearing.

(4) A witness making statements in conditions as specified in this article will be assisted in his/her special location during the trial by the respective instruction judge.

(5) A witness may be heard through a television network, his/her image and voice being distorted in such a way that s/he may not be recognised.(See: Criminal Procedure Code of The Republic of Moldova, Article 110, Sections 1, 4, and 5, The Republic of Moldova)

  • Criminal Procedure Code for The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Article 223 (5) - If the court deems it necessary, in order to protect a juvenile individual, a victim of human trafficking, violence or sexual abuse, the examination shall be conducted in the absence of the parties, in a special room, where the child is going to be kept, whilst they will be able to ask questions through the investigative judge, pedagogue, psychologist or another competent person who is present in the same room, together with the victim. The court shall decide whether there will be an audio or video recording of the examination, which can be used later on during the proceedings as evidence, or it will be observed live, with the assistance of appropriate technical means of communication (video conference or another type of a video link or connection). (See: Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 223 (5), The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, last accessed May 2013)

 

Promising Practice: The UNODC report, Good Practices for the Protection of Witnesses in Criminal Proceedings Involving Organized Crime identifies several alternatives to live, in-court testimony that should be afforded to victims of trafficking. The report gives an example of these laws in practice; in 2005, four men were arrested for trafficking in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. After being identified, the victim was repatriated to her home country of Moldova. However, she was asked to return to The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in order to testify against her trafficker once the trial began. After traveling to The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the case was dismissed before she was able to testify. When the case was reopened on appeal, the court allowed her to testify via videoconference from the Republic of Moldova. This was the first case where videoconferencing was allowed in the region.  (See: Good Practice for the Protection of Witnesses in Criminal Proceedings Involving Organized Crime, UNODC, 37, 2008)



 

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