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Crime prevention and criminal justice mechanisms


International and domestic criminal justice mechanisms have several advantages over their human rights law counterparts in the realization of access to justice for victims. They will have a physical presence within the territory of the affected State and so will have access to evidential materials, including those which might help in answering some of the many questions that victims and their families are likely to have in the aftermath of terrorist attacks or human rights violations occurring in the context of counter-terrorism operations. (Groome, 2011).

Despite this, however, the primary goal of criminal justice mechanisms remains the determination of the guilt or innocence of the defendant and, thus, their focus is likely to be narrow. Moreover, because their focus is on the criminal acts allegedly perpetrated by one or more individuals, they may be ill-suited to providing the forms of broader, societal healing that may be needed.

In addition, where victims are required to appear before a court as a witness, they are likely to have their credibility challenged. Though courts are increasingly recognizing the need to protect the psychological well-being of victims during their processes, engagement with the court may still prove to be traumatic for the victim concerned. In addition, criminal actions at the international level are relatively few, and since individual victims are not able to initiate an action themselves, they must simply hope that an action will be brought, and that it will coincide with their own justice needs.

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