Nigerien criminal justice officials trained on the treatment of victims and witnesses
The criminal justice system makes sure that victims and witnesses are treated with respect, dignity and are able to share their stories. By doing so, it ensures that the establishment of facts and the unveiling of the truth remain its key components, at the heart of its own functioning. Protecting victims and witnesses is thus instrumental for effective judicial proceedings and the fight against impunity.
As part of its regional project to strengthen criminal justice systems of Sahel countries, UNODC trained thirty-two (32) Nigerien officials representing the Police, the Gendarmerie and judges on the treatment of victims and witnesses. The participants came from Agadez, Bouza, Diffa, Maradi, Niamey, Tahoua, Tillabery and Zinder. The training, which took place from the 22 to 24 November, 2016 in Niamey, was carried out by international experts as well as UNODC staff from the Regional Office for West and Central Africa.
The three-day training, which was delivered through interactive presentations, covered the role of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice process, victimisation, whistle-blowers, access to justice, and fair treatment of victims and witnesses during the different phases of the judicial process (pre-trial, trial and post-trial). Measures concerning vulnerable groups, as well as examples of good practices from international tribunals were also presented and discussed.
On the last day, participants were divided into groups according to their role in the criminal justice system to identify the measures that can be implemented when treating with victims and witnesses, based on the training they received. At the end of the exercise, each group's conclusions were presented in a plenary session for the other groups and experts to provide comments and recommendations.
Victims and witnesses play a crucial role in the criminal justice process, since in many cases, without their help in coming forward to report a crime and give evidence, it can be difficult for a successful prosecution to be achieved and for the offender to be brought to justice. Moreover, they are a reminder that criminal offenses not only harm society in general, but have a real impact on the people whose rights were violated by the actions of the offender.
This training is part of the UNODC Sahel Programme (2013-2019) and was made possible through the contribution of the Government of Norway. It allowed the implementation of one of the recommendations of the First Regional Meeting of the Sahel countries on the protection of victims and witnesses organized by UNODC in Nouakchott, Mauritania in December 2014; that is, delivering initial and continuous training for all criminal justice officials and other actors in contact with victims and witnesses.