Witness protection institute in practice

hire-an-attorney-in-MontenegroMore than a decade has passed since the inclusion of the institution of
witness protection in Montenegrin judiciary, yet this legal
mechanism has been put into practice just once.

Up to this point, the status of protected witness has been, from the
legal aspect, reserved only for
processes in which the defendants were to serve a prison sentence of at
least ten years.

As indicated by the legislative changes made in the previous year, a
protected witness may also appear
in the processes proving a felony punishable by at least five years in
prison.

The institution of witness protection was applied for the first time in
the Montenegrin judiciary in the criminal proceedings for murder of
police official Slavoljub Scekic.

This witness protection episode had a rather inglorious epilogue,
because the identity of the witness was revealed in the media.

Attorney Ranko Radonjic explains that the benefit of this institution is
that it provides the opportunity for proof of guilt. On the other hand,
one cannot be expected to testify at the expense of his/her personal and
property safety, or safety of people close to him/her.

He believes that due to the fact that we are a small community, this
institution has not yet been embraced.

“Decisions on the implementation, suspension, termination or extension
of the witness protection program are passed by a special Commission,”
the lawyer Ranko Radonjic points out.

Commission for implementing of the witness protection program consists
of a judge of the Supreme Court of Montenegro, a state prosecutor of the
Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office, the Head of the Witness Protection
Unit, the director of the administrative body responsible for the
execution of penitentiary sanctions and a psychologist appointed by the
Minister of labor and social welfare.

According to the procedure, before the Commission receives a request,
the potential protected witness is previously subjected to medical
examination and has to complete special questionnaires after which,
together with the assessment of the Head of the Protection Unit, these
documents are submitted to the Commission which shall decide on the
request not later than 30 days.

The aim of the implementation of the witness protection program is to
ensure personal and property safety of citizens who, by fulfilling their
duties and testifying, help the justice system. At the same time, the
aim is to ensure the credibility of testimony by removing any possible
obstacles to honest and complete testimony.