How does the witness protection system work in Russia?

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How does the witness protection system work in Russia?


© Igor Samokhvalov/PG

In Russia, from 2024, a new state program for ensuring the safety of witnesses, victims and other participants in criminal proceedings may begin to operate. Its developers noted that more and more people helping the investigation need protection. They are assigned guards or temporarily transported to a safe place. Sometimes they have to move forever, change their first name, last name and appearance. The draft resolution approving the program was published on February 13 on the portal of draft regulatory legal acts. Until February 27, its public discussion will continue.

714 million per program

The state program “Ensuring the safety of victims, witnesses and other participants in criminal proceedings” has been operating in Russia since 2006. Since then, according to the Interior Ministry, more than 39,000 people have been protected. They were provided with bodyguards, given special personal protective equipment, communications and danger alerts, and were transported to another region for some time. Sometimes people who testified against criminals had to change their first and last names, move to another city. Everyone receives protection, regardless of their citizenship, nationality, gender, official and social status, religion and political beliefs, the draft resolution noted.

As the developers of the program noted, statistics show an increase in the number of protected citizens and the effectiveness of security measures in relation to them.​ ​ ​ ​

The new document prepared by the Ministry of Internal Affairs is designed for 2024-2028. Its main executor will be the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and co-executors – the Federal Security Service, the Ministry of Defense, the Federal Customs Service, the Federal Penitentiary Service and Rostrud. The priorities of the program are to increase the effectiveness of the protection of witnesses and victims, to exclude the facts of causing harm to their life, health and property. They also plan to strengthen the material and technical base of units that ensure the safety of citizens.​

714 million rubles from the budget will be allocated to finance the program. For 2024 and 2025, 137 million rubles are provided, in 2026 – 141 million, in 2027 – 146 million, and in 2028 – 151 million rubles. Over the entire period of the program, 612.3 million rubles are intended for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 14.2 million for the Ministry of Defense, and 55.8 million rubles for the Federal Penitentiary Service.

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Testimony will help the investigation

“Every year, during the investigation of criminal cases, the participants in criminal proceedings, acting as victims and witnesses, are subjected to techniques and methods of physical and psychological pressure in order to change their testimony or refuse them,” the draft program says.

The Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption also drew attention to this problem. Anatoly Vyborny. According to him, witnesses, victims or civil plaintiffs in criminal cases often completely renounce their testimony or change it, which significantly affects the course of the investigation. “Unfortunately, sometimes this can lead to the fact that the offender escapes responsibility,” Vyborny told Parliamentary Gazeta. He stressed that people refuse to testify for various reasons, but above all – under pressure from the accused, or his relatives and accomplices, if the offender is in custody.

So that people are not afraid to help the investigation, a program for the protection of witnesses and victims is working. “For the triumph of justice, we need to improve the existing legal mechanisms for the protection of participants in criminal proceedings,” Anatoly Vyborny believes.​

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