Terrorism’s victims must be at heart of criminal justice response – UN guide

22 November 2011

A United Nations policy guide released today offers advice on how to reform and improve criminal justice systems so that they are fairer and more sensitive to the needs of the victims of terrorism and their families.

“Victims matter. Their rights and needs, as well as those of their families, should be at the heart of any criminal justice response,” said Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Yury Fedotov during the report’s launch today at UN Headquarters in New York.

The publication includes advice for policy-makers and criminal justice officials and examples of good practices to support victims of terrorism. Recommended measures include judicial assistance, protection from intimidation and retaliation, material, medical, psychological and social assistance, and access to compensation.

“I hope this marks a positive step forward in our joint efforts to create criminal justice systems that are more responsive to the needs of the innocent,” said Mr. Fedotov.

According to UNODC, victims have long played a secondary and mostly silent role in criminal trials, making it crucial to grant them equal and effective access to justice to ensure the effective prosecution of perpetrators.

Robert Orr, Chair of the UN Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), stressed the importance of helping victims find their public voice to shed light on issues that would otherwise not be addressed.

“The CTITF continues to be committed to elaborating on the compendium of best practices on supporting terrorism victims including media coverage and exploring options for financial and material support for victims.”

The UN has previously taken measures to emphasize the human rights of victims including the adoption of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy five years ago, which the report aims to expand on.

“The present publication builds upon this mandate and is intended to promote effective criminal justice mechanisms to support victims of acts of terrorism at a national level,” said Mr. Fedotov, and reiterated UNODC’s commitment provide assistance to countries on law enforcement, legal and legislative guidance.

Award-winning actress and UNODC Goodwill Ambassador Mira Sorvino was also present at the launch, and spoke passionately about her experiences talking to terrorism victims, while stressing the importance of making their voices heard.

“Making victims the central part of any criminal justice response to terrorism is imperative. Not only must they be encouraged to be a major part of bearing witness in the courtrooms but their care and compensation for what they and those close to them have suffered must be of utmost importance to legal systems around the world.”

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