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Witness Protection under Swiss Legislation: An Offspring of International Law

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In 2003 Switzerland adopted the first witness protection provisions in the Swiss Military Criminal Code of Procedure (MCCP). These followed to the lessons learned in the Niyonteze Trial, the first trial held in Switzerland on genocide. The military investigating magistrates had to be inventive and very pragmatic in providing for the security of the witnesses. Trips were even undertaken to the ICTR to learn about its practice and measures were adopted to prevent a "cultural shock". Notwithstanding the tendency of some human rights advocates to be very critical of military tribunals, in the Niyonteze Trial the Swiss Military Justice proved to be efficient and fair, both to the accused and the witnesses. The measures adopted were implemented into the MCCP and they will provide the basis for the forthcoming Federal Criminal Code of Procedure. This paper aims at illustrating the evolution of the Swiss witness protection legislation, which may be considered an offspring of international law.

Affiliations: 1: Swiss Department of Defence, Laws of Armed Conflicts Section; Swiss JAG (MT 8) and legal assistant at Riva & Felder Solicitors, Lugano, Switzerland


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