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Key challenges in securing reparation


Despite all of a State's obligations to prevent the occurrence of international crimes and the perpetration of gross human rights violations, and to ensure that victims have appropriate access to effective redress when such violations occur, often victims of terrorism do not receive the compensation, restitution and other forms of support that they are legally entitled to. This can be for several reasons which are briefly touched upon below.

Perpetrator indigence

Victims of terrorist acts may have complex financial, physical and psychological needs because of the harm suffered, and the costs of full reparation can be significant. Where mass casualty terrorist attacks have been committed with multiple victims, the costs may become exponential. While meeting these costs can be a challenge for a State that has been responsible for committing abuses, particular difficulties arise in the context of national or international criminal justice mechanisms, where single perpetrators are convicted of crimes and are simply unable to pay the reparations awarded.

In some cases, States may have an established compensation scheme to meet the needs of victims in such circumstances, however this is the exception rather than the rule. Often a State's capacity and resources may already be at full stretch in seeking to prevent terrorist attacks from occurring and/or strengthen the capacity of its relevant institutions to ensure rule of law compliance. The financial costs associated with the provision of victim orientated schemes or mechanisms can be very onerous. In the case of the International Criminal Court, a Trust Fund for Victims was established in 2004 to implement Court-ordered reparations in situations where the funds of an accused were insufficient to meet their liabilities.

Inadequacy of remedies to counter harm suffered

While the aim of international or national reparative efforts is to restore the individual and/or the affected community to the position existing prior to the abuse ( Factory at Chorzow (Germany v. Poland), 1928, para. 125), full restoration, including full clinical rehabilitation in the aftermath of gross violations, is generally not achievable (see e.g. Committee Against Torture General Comment No. 3 CAT/C/GC/3). In addition, in many cases what has been lost simply cannot be replaced and hence, to some extent, reparation can only ever be nominal and symbolic. Difficulties in achieving a sense of justice in victims may be exacerbated where the acceptance of justice is perceived by the survivor as an act of betrayal or otherwise interpreted as a means of buying silence (Hamber, 2000, p. 220). While the context and environment within which justice is framed may be of particular relevance to survivor perceptions of justice, in some cases nothing will be enough to satisfy the individual that justice has been done (Hamber, 2008, p. 568). In that respect, justice in the aftermath of widespread human rights abuses or of criminal offences such as terrorist acts may be such that it is unable to meet the high expectations and hopes of victims.

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