Victims and Witnesses Unit

 

 

The Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) thus has a statutory mandate to provide protection, support and other appropriate assistance to witnesses and victims who appear before the Court.

The Rules of Procedure and Evidence further stipulate that the Victims and Witnesses Unit shall provide witnesses, victims who appear before the Court and others who are at risk on account of testimony with adequate protective and security measures and formulate long-and short-term plans for their protection; recommend to the organs of the Court the adoption of protection measures and assist witnesses when they are called to testify before the Court.

The Victims and Witnesses Unit is a neutral service provider, providing equal services to Prosecution and Defence. The unit does not identify witnesses or victims on its own, but acts upon referral or request. Although protection and support services are particularly pertinent during the trial stage, the services of the Victims and Witnesses Unit can be requested and provided at all stages of proceedings, from pre-trial/investigation to post-trial.

The Victims and Witnesses Unit has developed protocols and cooperation agreements with a number of national and international partners and is committed to remain at the forefront of best international practice within its areas of expertise.

Protection:

Protection aims to minimise and manage any risk that may be faced by witnesses and victims who appear before the Court resulting from their interaction with the Court.

The basic fundament of any meaningful protection system lies in the adherence to good practices when interacting with victims and witnesses. Through the establishment and maintenance of response and protection measures in the Court’s areas of operation and through procedural protective measures ordered by Chambers further protection can be ensured. Finally, as a measure of last resort, protection can be provided through participation in the ICC Protection Programme.

In accordance with Rule 16 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence the Registrar may negotiate confidential agreements on relocation and provision of support services on the territory of a State on behalf of the Court. The Victims and Witnesses Unit actively pursues a policy of concluding relocation and other cooperation agreements with States Parties and other parties in order to establish an effective national and international protection regime for witnesses, victims who appear before the Court and others who are at risk on account of testimony.

Support:

In order to ensure their psychological well-being, dignity and privacy, the Victims and Witnesses Unit provides support services and assistance to witnesses and victims who appear before the Court when required, based on an assessment of their individual needs.

The Victims and Witnesses Unit’s support team provides information and guidance to witnesses and victims appearing before the Court, as well as their accompanying persons. The support team offers assistance during the travel of victims and witnesses to the location of the hearings and provides services to them 24 hours per day and seven days per week. These services include, inter alia, the provision of psycho-social support, crisis intervention, information and debriefings before and after testimony, and access to medical care when needed.

The services are monitored regularly and tailored to meet the specific needs of victims and witnesses, taking into account their cultural, religious and social requirements. Particular attention is given to vulnerable groups, such as victims of sexual or gender violence, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities. The VWU support services promote gender-sensitive measures to facilitate the testimony of victims of sexual violence.

The multi-disciplinary support team of the Victims and Witnesses Unit is experienced and trained in issues of trauma, sexual violence, security and confidentiality. The support services aim to promote a setting in which the experience of testifying does not result in further harm, suffering or trauma.

Operations:

In addition to protection and support services, the Victims and Witness Unit provides other appropriate assistance to witnesses and victims who appear before the Court. These include logistical arrangements and immigration procedures to ensure the timely and secure appearance of witnesses and victims in Court.

The operations element within the Victims and Witnesses Unit moreover provides operational and logistical support to the unit’s protection and support officers and coordinates the unit’s activities in the Court’s areas of operation.