Witness protection: The Italian example
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After testifying against the ringleader of last November's terrorist attacks in Paris, one woman, known only as Sonia, has been forced into hiding but says she feels abandoned by the state. Up until now, the French justice system has only offered very limited protection to witnesses. A bill to strengthen the country’s witness protection and boost the fight against organised crime and terror was finally signed into law last week.
The new law gives French magistrates new means to investigate since it provides for improved protection of witnesses living under threat. This is a challenge that the magistrates in Italy know only too well: In 2001, the status "Justice Witness" was introduced into Italian law in a bid to fight the Mafia. Since then, hundreds of people have come forward to help police by providing important information. People feel safe in doing so since the program allows witnesses to assume new identities, transfer to other regions, and have both housing and compensation provided to them by the state. But these witnesses still often lead very difficult lives, filled with fear. Our correspondent in Italy, Natalia Mendoza, met two witnesses who had been threatened by the Sicilian Mafia.