, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 6 – With cases of sexual violence on the rise, the Witness Protection Agency is calling on Kenyans to familiarize with its services, that largely focuses on protection of people who would have witnessed such heinous crimes and threatened from speaking out.
The agency, which has covered 328 witnesses and 800 dependents since its inception in 2011, also assists people facing threats for having crucial information in serious crimes including murder, corruption, and terror among other cases.
- Among the major challenges the agency is facing include lack of capacity since it has only about 73 officials and work on a constrained budget according to Ondieki
- During 2016-2017 financial year, she says the agency was only allocated Sh379 million against a proposed budget of Sh760 million
- The Agency has a Liaison office in Nairobi at Milimani Law Courts Room 413 in addition to two regional offices based in Mombasa and Kisumu
In an interview with Capital News, the Agency’s Chief Executive Officer Alice Ondieki said there is no reason for people to fear their services since the extent of threat informs whether a person should either be re-located, provided with physical and armed protection, granted camera hearings, distortion and obscuring the identity of the witness among a set of other security measures.
“If a person has been threatened, he has to apply either as a person or referred by an institution,” she said. “Once we receive your application, we process it through criteria that we have set up.”
For a person to qualify, she said a person must be a witness, the agency have must also go through the applicant’s evidence which will then lead to risk assessment.
The programme has been effective, she said while pointing out that already 150 cases have been taken to court, 14 of which have been concluded with 12 convictions.
“We have been able to assist in investigations of very serious crimes,” she said. “We are talking of high level cases like murder, terrorism…”
The purpose of the Witness Protection Programme is to accord witnesses and related protected people an opportunity to participate in bringing to justice against perpetrators of crimes by delivering their evidence to law enforcement agencies or testifying in judicial proceedings.
The implementation of the Programme is based on strict confidentiality undertaken through well designed standard operating procedures that are based on internationally accepted good practices on witness protection.
The Government intends to empower the agency even further through a Bill that is set to amend the Witness Protection Act, which is currently at the Third Reading in the National Assembly.