Any person with direct knowledge of facts important to the case can be called to participate as a witness, that is, someone who has witnessed the crime or knows something relevant to uncovering the truth. Witnesses can be considered indirect victims to some extent, as witnessing a crime or a violent situation can negatively impact emotional well-being.

In principle, anyone named as a witness is obligated to testify, with the exception of the defendant’s close relatives and individuals covered by professional confidentiality, such as journalists, doctors, and lawyers, who may refuse to do so.

Witnesses must appear when summoned at the indicated day, time, and place; comply with instructions given regarding testimony; and answer truthfully to the questions posed. Otherwise, they might be accused of committing perjury.

Witnesses can request the court to grant them special protection status, in which case no identifying information will be included in the process, although the defendant’s attorney has the right to access their credentials for adequate defence performance.

Witnesses can be accompanied by an attorney whenever they have to testify. The witness’s attorney can inform them about their rights when necessary but cannot intervene during the testimony.

At the trial, witnesses may not attend the hearing before giving their testimony and must wait in a designated area for witnesses, entering the room only when called. For more information about missing a trial, click here. In virtual trials, the victim waits in the lobby of the hearing room, waiting their turn to give a statement.

The defendant may be removed from the courtroom during a witness's testimony, particularly that of a victim, if the court believes, for example, that their presence might inhibit the witness from telling the truth.

In case of severe illness or mobility impairment, the judge may travel to the witness's residence to hear their testimony; however, in the case of virtual trials, it is common for this questioning to also be conducted virtually. This inquiry involves not only the judge but also the public prosecutor, the defendant, their counsel, and the victim's attorneys. This testimony is called "statements for future memory" as it is meant to be used as evidence in a trial and is recorded.

Measures can be applied for witness protection when their life, physical or psychological integrity, freedom, or considerably valuable assets are endangered due to their contribution to the crime’s evidence. These measures can also cover the witnesses’ family members and close acquaintances. For more information, click here.

Witnesses considered especially vulnerable may benefit from a set of measures protecting them from the risk of victimisation or intimidation. For more information, click here.


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