WITNESS PROTECTION IN KENYA

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Witness Protection programs are essential mechanisms for ensuring the safety and security of individuals who play a critical role in the justice system by providing testimony against criminals while fostering accountability, safeguarding justice, and upholding the rule of law.

Witness protection in Kenya traces its roots back to the Witness Protection Act of 2006, which established the Witness Protection Agency (WPA), that came into operation in September 2008. The primary objective of this legislation is to provide for the protection of witnesses, intermediaries, and other persons involved in legal proceedings. The Act recognizes the importance of witness protection in facilitating the administration of justice and combating crime. WPA performs all its functions, independently without interference from any authority.

A person qualifies to be protected based on their testimony or if they are related to a witness who requires protection. Protection is only offered to witnesses who need protection from a threat or risk, which exists on account of his or her being a crucial witness. Some of the qualifications are if one:

  1. i) Has given or agreed to give evidence on behalf of the state
  2. ii) Has made a statement to the police or any law enforcement agency in relation to an offense against a law in Kenya.

iii) Is required to give evidence before a court, commission or tribunal outside Kenya and 

  1. iv) Any other reason that may require protection under the Act.

The WPA manages a witness protection programme that takes action to protect the safety and welfare of protected persons. This is done through means such as physical and armed protection, relocation, change of identity and any other measure necessary to ensure the safety of a protected person. Protection can also be done in court through means such as holding closed court sessions, use of pseudonyms, use of a video link, obscuring the identity of the witness and use of the witness protection box.

Some of the cases that witnesses are protected from include organized crime, robbery with violence, rape. defilement, murder, robbery with violence, grievous assault and human trafficking. Witness protection plays a crucial role in promoting the rule of law and ensuring the integrity of the justice system in Kenya. However, the effectiveness of witness protection mechanisms is contingent upon adequate resources, strong institutional capacity, and concerted efforts to address systemic challenges.

 

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