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Ireland could become home to witnesses under an international protection programme

This would be the first time Ireland is involved in an international witness protection programme.

Goodfellas portrayal of Henry Hill, a mobster informant whose family entered the US witness protection programme.
Goodfellas portrayal of Henry Hill, a mobster informant whose family entered the US witness protection programme.

WITNESSES WHO TESTIFY before the International Criminal Court (ICC) could be relocated in Ireland for protection.

Letters have already been exchanged between the government and the ICC to kickstart a process which would allow witnesses under threat to be re-homed in Ireland.

A senior government source said the government agreed to becoming a relocation option “in principle” but emphasised it was a “non-binding agreement”.

He said all requests will be decided on a “case by case basis”.

The agreement will be the first time Ireland is involved in an international witness protection programme.

The senior source confirmed no person has yet been relocated in Ireland under the programme.

The ICC investigates and tries individuals for genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity.

The court states that it has a wide range of protections for witnesses, including giving evidence by video-link, as well as distorting a person’s voice.

It states that as a “last resort” a witness and his or her close relatives may be relocated away from a threat – either temporarily or permanently – inside or outside their home country.

This is an effective method of protection but due to the immense burden on the relocated persons, relocation remains a measure of last resort and absolute necessity.

Ireland already has its own witness protection programme. Last year, the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the programme has cost over €5 million since 2010.

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