It is recommended practice for stakeholders to engage with other country experiences in order to identify what has worked and learn lessons, particularly in new and emerging filed such as witness protection. Kenya was a good reference point since it has been using witness protection legislation since 2006, as such; it was a good reference point for drafters, policy makers and implementers of witness protection legislation.
The findings from the benchmarking visit drew in legislative enrichment, practical knowledge in conceptualizing and implementing a witness protection program, and set ground for collaborative engagement and free technical support in developing a witness protection regime for Uganda.
The study was undertaken with the following Kenyan Institutions: Attorney General’s Chambers, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary, Supreme Court of Kenya, Witness Protection Agency, Law Society of Kenya and the Kenya Law Reform Commission.
Findings of the study
At the inception of witness protection in Kenya, the mandate for witness protection was with the office of the Attorney General (2006). The position changed with the amendments to the Kenyan Constitution and the Witness Protection Act, 2010 which put witness protection under an independent body, the Witness Protection Agency (WPA).
Witness protection is governed by the Witness Protection Act, No. 16 of 2006 as amended by Act No. 2 of 2010. The Act governs the protection of witnesses who have been intimidated for cooperating with law enforcement officers. The Act provides clear guidelines about who qualifies for protection. The Act also establishes the Witness Protection Agency of Kenya to oversee the protection of witnesses.
About the Kenya Witness Protection Agency
The Kenya Witness Protection Agency is an independent body. It is established under section 3A of the Act as a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal; capable of suing and being sued and holding and alienating property.
The objective of the Agency is to provide the framework and procedures for giving special protection, on behalf of the state, to persons in possession of important information and who are facing potential risk or intimidation due to their cooperation with prosecution and other law enforcement agencies.
Witness Protection in Uganda
Witness protection is a relatively new phenomenon in Uganda. In 2010, the Justice, Law and Order Sector, through the Uganda Law Reform Commission, launched a study on witness protection in order to identify the need for a policy and legislative framework for protection of witnesses. The study culminated into a draft bill that seeks to provide a framework for the establishment of a national Witness Protection Programme; measures for the protection and safety of witnesses so as to facilitate witnesses to testify and give evidence in justice proceedings. The bill draws a lot from a number of good practice frameworks such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the UNDOC Model Law on Witness Protection and several national legislations including from Kenya, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Given the crucial role which effective victim and witness protection serves in safeguarding credible witness testimony, to investigate and prosecute serious crimes such as corruption, human and drug trafficking, torture, among others, and the lack of domestic practice in this area, the Uganda Law Reform Commission recognized the need to undertake a comparative benchmarking tour to provide a platform for sharing of experiences and practices and deepen practical appreciation of the witness protection initiatives proposed in the bill.
The full detailed report of the witness protection benchmarking visit shall be made available upon completion.