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  This module is a resource for lecturers  

 

Introduction

 

In 1985, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (1985) in recognition of the fact that "millions of people throughout the world suffer harm as a result of crime and the abuse of power and that the rights of these victims have not been adequately recognized." The Declaration (1985) further recognized "that the victims of crime and the victims of abuse of power, and also frequently their families, witnesses and others who aid them, are unjustly subjected to loss, damage or injury and that they may, in addition, suffer hardship when assisting in the prosecution of offenders."

Unfortunately, these findings still hold true, despite the considerable evolution of victims' rights and services since the adoption of the Declaration of Basic Principles (1985). This is not, however, to say that the challenges for victims have remained static over time. Indeed, victims today may find themselves faced with both new challenges and opportunities. Among the sociocultural shifts that impact on victims' access to justice is that the emergence of the Internet and new ways of communicating offer both opportunities for victims to make their voices heard, as well as posing new threats in form of cybercrime and interpersonal cybercrime (for more on these topics please refer to the E4J University Module Series on Cybercrime). Moreover, in a globalized world, people are increasingly mobile and may fall victim to crime in a country other than that of their residence. This has the potential to create new challenges for victims who seek access to support or legal redress. Additional contextual factors that shape the continued evolution of justice for victims include the fact that crime increasingly transcends borders, while international cooperation between law enforcement agencies and criminal justice practitioners has also intensified. For further on these topics, please refer to the E4J University Module Series on Organized Crime (in particular, Module 11 on International Cooperation to Combat Transnational Organized Crime). Cross border issues are also central to the E4J Module Series on Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants.

Mindful of the complexities of the contemporary global context, this Module is concerned with the particular justice needs and rights of those adversely impacted by crime. The intention is to provide lecturers with materials that will assist their teaching on a broad range of victim-oriented issues, with particular attention to the systems necessary to ensure that victims are treated in a manner that upholds their dignity and seeks to restore their well-being. The materials presented in this Module are informed by empirical research, a history of victimology, the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (1985), and other sources of international law which reflect consensus about the measures necessary to ensure justice for victims.

The materials presented in this Module are designed to provide students with a broader perspective on crime and crime prevention, and on how the criminal justice system can give victims a voice, and an active means of empowering victims as they seek to redress, or mitigate, the harms caused by their victimization. The Module identifies, among other things, that justice for victims requires criminal justice responses that are timely, effective, and sensitive to victims' needs. Yet, the Module is also underpinned by an appreciation of the fact that achieving justice for victims requires a coordinated and multidisciplinary response. Accordingly, the principles examined here are relevant to the pre-service training of students in a broad range of disciplines, including: law; criminology; psychology; sociology; social work; education; political science; and various other social sciences, including medicine and economics. It is intended that fostering a multidisciplinary understanding of the measures necessary to ensure justice for victims will advance multisectoral implementation of victim-oriented laws, policies, and services. Further guidance on the interdisciplinary aspects of teaching is in the Teaching Guide that accompanies this University Module Series on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

 

Learning outcomes

 
  • Discuss the evolution of victimology as a discipline and the concept of justice for victims vis-à-vis the criminal justice context, and broader multisectoral contexts.
  • Understand the impact of crime on victims, and victims' needs.
  • Examine the various data collection and research mechanisms relevant to victims' rights and policies.
  • Critically assess specific facets of criminal justice responses to victims.
  • Understand and critically assess current developments related to victims.
  • Understand the role of victims' rights in the context of international human rights law and international criminal justice.
 
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