President Museveni has directed the Attorney General to work on a witness protection law as sought for by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“I didn’t know this(witness protection law) was a problem and now if it is a problem the Attorney General should work on the law,” Museveni said.
The president made the directive on Friday while speaking to prosecutors during the 6th annual Joan Kagezi memorial lecture at Speke Resort Hotel in Munyonyo held under the theme, “Organised crime and the necessity for witness protection.”
The development followed a request by the DPP for a witness protection law that would help in protection of witnesses during the prosecution of cases.
Abodo said in any crime that goes to court, the presence of a witness to testify against a suspect draws equal interest from both the prosecution and the defence.
“The interest of prosecution in obtaining a conviction mostly hinges on witnesses and other forms of evidence whereas on the other side, the suspect is either interested in keeping witnesses from testifying or impeaching the creditworthiness of their testimony through various conventional and unconventional means,”Abodo said.
She mentioned unconventional means to include harm, intimidation and other acts.
The DPP explained that given the growing and sophisticated nature of crime in not only Uganda but world over, there need to have witnesses protected keeps growing every day and noted this can only be done ably through a law.
“For a long time, serious and organized crimes such as corruption, money laundering, terrorism, murder, kidnaps, sexual offences and trafficking in persons have been a threat and huge cost to Uganda and a legal framework will go a long way to provide special protection to threatened or intimidated witnesses as a guarantee for their security and welfare when testifying in court in the interest of a fair hearing,”Abodo said.
She noted that witness protection may be in form of physical and armed protection, relocation that involves change of identity and any other measure necessary to ensure the safety of a witness.
According to the DPP, protection of witnesses can also be done during court proceedings through holding hearings in camera, use of pseudonyms, redaction of identifying information, use of video links, or employing measures to obscure or distorting the identity of the witnesses.
“Therefore, the establishment of a witness protection regime will go a long way to complement not only the judicial system of Uganda but also ad-hoc the office of the DPP’s witness protection guidelines and framework.”