Supporting Victims of Acts of Terrorism
Binding international instruments on human rights have historically failed to focus on the formal involvement of victims in criminal proceedings. Since the 1970's, victimology has played an important function in revitalizing the role of the victim, once described as the 'forgotten party' in the criminal justice system.
Events involving terrorist acts have created a large number of direct and indirect victims which has been influential in the mobilization of governmental sectors and civil society in granting specific rights and affording comprehensive support to victims of terrorist acts and their families.
Recognition of, and support to, victims is a key-component of a successful rule of law-based criminal justice response to acts of terrorism. The effects of acts of terrorism extend beyond the immediate impact on the direct victims, as these acts indiscriminately target civilian populations or persons, regardless of their status or function, or public institutions, thereby affecting, more broadly, society as a whole.
In 2006, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in which, for the first time, Member States acknowledged that an important component of the fight against terrorism is the role of those who suffer most: the victims and their families. In 2008, the United Nations convened a Symposium that brought together governments, civil society and victims of terrorism to discuss practical solutions to strengthen support for victims and their families.
Within its manadate related to the prevention and suppression of terrorism and in response to General Assembly resolutions 64/168 (2009) and 66/178 (2011) emphasizing the importance of integrating victims' perspective in UNODC's counterterrorism work and requesting the Office to assist Member States, upon request, to adopt legislation and policies in support of victims of terrorist acts, UNODC launched a technical assistance training tool in November 2011 on The Criminal Justice Response to Support Victims of Acts of Terrorism.
The handbook takes stock of national experiences and good legal practices to support victims of acts of terrorism, addressing relevant international standards and norms as well as national legislation. Available in all UN official languages, the tool is intended to help Member States strengthen the implementation of legislation and policies that support and protect victims of terrorism and is not only a reference guide but will be fully integrated into UNODC's capacity-building activities.
UNODC plans to continue to expand its work in building an effective criminal justice response to support victims of terrorism.