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Protective measures in the ECCC proceedings

When a witness, civil party or complainant requests protection measures or informs an officer of the court that they have security or confidentiality concerns, they are referred to the  ECCC's Witness and Expert Support Unit (WESU). 

There are many ways a person can inform the ECCC that they have a concern.  A civil party or a complainant might make a note on their official application form, or they may inform the ECCC's Victims Support Section (VSS) or, for civil parties, their civil party lawyer.  A witness, civil party or complainant may be interviewed by an officer from the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges and they may inform the investigators conducting the interview, or they may tell the Judges themselves.  However, if a person informs the ECCC that they have concerns they will always be directed to WESU.

When WESU learns that a Civil Party or witnesses has concerns about security or confidentiality, its staff will  meet with them in person to discuss the concerns.  Witness protection can be a complex matter, and not easily summarized, however there are many strategies that can be used to help safeguard the security of witnesses.

There are protective steps that witnesses can take for themselves; strategies that WESU can recommend, protection services that the Cambodian police authorities can provide, and protective measures that the Co-Investigating Judges or The Chambers can order for witnesses during the legal proceedings, for example, they can order that a witness's identity is hidden from the public.   As every individual is different and has special circumstances, it is usual that a witness who experiences threat or intimidation will require an individual protection plan for themselves.

Often people say the only thing they know about witness protection is what they have seen on movies, and this usually means they have seen that a threatened witness is "relocated", that is,  moved to a new location with a change of identify. In fact, this is the rarest form of witness protection and is only used in the most extreme cases of threat in any jurisdiction, national or international. 

In relation to the protective measures that the Co-Investigation Judges or The Chambers can order for witnesses, it is important to understand that while witnesses have the right to request the Judges to order protective measures for them, they are not automatically granted on request.  Once a witness has requested protective measures, the Judges will decide whether they will grant them, and the Judges will decide what kind of measures to grant. 

The intention of the Judges is to ensure the protection of the witnesses, but before they decide on granting any witness protection measures they must consider the needs of witnesses alongside the rights of the defendants, and the need for a fair trial. The Judges will always consult with WESU before they decide on a request for protective measures for a witness.

Witness protection for the ECCC doesn't just mean protection from physical harm due to testimony.  Many witnesses feel anxiety and fear before such a big event as testifying and they need support, reassurance and accurate information about what is happening.  WESU also concerns itself with protecting witnesses from emotional and psychological stress and that is why we have developed a range of support services for witnesses which include the provision of individual services of support to every witness from the professional staff of the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation Cambodia (TPO Cambodia).

Ms. Wendy Lobwein is Coordinator in the ECCC's Witnesses/Experts Support Unit.

Protective measures in the ECCC proceedings are reguleted in Internal Rule 29 and Practice Direction on Protective Measures

 
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Today: 14 August 2018

Victims Support Section of the ECCC