EUPOL COPPS advisers advocate for enhanced witness protection in Palestine

As part of the first international high-level anti-corruption conference in Ramallah launched by President Mahmoud Abbas and held from 9-11 December, EUPOL advisers made the case for stronger protection of witnesses and whistleblowers as a crucial component in the fight against corruption.

“Tackling organised crime or terrorism requires obtaining information about actors, their activities and financial dealings. This can be very difficult because of the secrecy of their organisations,” said Jari-Pekka Paajala, EUPOL COPPS Prosecution Expert from Finland. “A key part of successfully investigating and prosecuting organised criminal groups is the ability of law enforcement agencies to provide security and safety to any witness who pledges himself to provide testimony”.

Drawing on the experience of his home country, Mr Paajala noted the importance of having a credible and publicly trusted witness protection programme in place to encourage people to report wrongdoing. Michele Tarlao, EUPOL COPPS Anti-Narcotics and Organised Crime Adviser from the Italian State Police, concurred and recalled his own country’s fight against the mafia.

Mr Tarlao spoke about the case of Denise Garofalo, who testified against her father, a well-known member of an organised crime gang, after he murdered her mother.

Her testimony was key in securing the conviction of her father and his five accomplices. She now lives under police protection. As a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), as well as the Arab Convention against Money Laundering Financing Terrorism and the Arab Anti-Corruption Convention, Palestine has certain international frameworks to draw upon to strengthen its anti-corruption frameworks. As noted by the EUPOL COPPS advisers at the conference, there are certain concrete changes to the Criminal Procedure Code, for example to the definitions of the rights and obligations of witnesses and persons of interest that would significantly improve Palestine’s ability to address the challenges of corruption and organised crime.