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Internet is more and more widely used in all fields of our everyday life. As its importance increases, so do the use and misuse of this technology. This topic, plus the dangers and subsequent solutions in witness protection cases, were the main topics for the 10th Europol Experts Meeting on Witness Protection, which was held in Sofia on 27 and 28 May.
“Witness protection is one of the cornerstones in the fight against organized crime. We must try to overcome that witnesses giving evidence in court cases face intimidation. In order to act as professionally as possible, it is important that specialists within this challenging field of work pool their expertise,” says Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.
During the two-day conference, experts on witness protection discussed the possible threat to protected witnesses whilst using the internet in a non-secure way. Possible solutions to this as well as a realistic harmonisation amongst the European Witness Protection Units were also dealt with. In addition, other important topics were on the agenda such as a standardized document for the relocation of witnesses in Europe.
“Witness protection is a very important tool in the fight against organised crime. Witness Protection Units are up against some very professional criminals who make good use of modern technology. The challenges of keeping up with criminal gangs require an international effort and close cooperation. This conference is a significant step in the right direction”, said Mr Stanislav Stefanov, Director General of the Ministry of Justice, in his opening speech at the conference.
The conference in Sofia was attended by 100 experts from almost all of the European Member States. In addition, delegations from Albania, Australia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Iceland, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Switzerland and USA also attended the conference, as well as representatives from ICC (International Criminal Court) ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) and UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).
The Europol network on witness protection was established in 2000 and consists of nominated experts from five continents.