UNODC commemorates the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to Victims of Terrorism

Abuja, 20 August 2021 – In 2017, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed August 21st as the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism in support of the rights and fundamental freedoms of victims and survivors of terrorism, and to reaffirm that the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law in all areas of society is essential to preventing and combating terrorism.

Victims of terrorism and their families need focused and dedicated mechanisms to ensure that their rights as individuals are upheld and protected. As one of the critical United Nations bodies dedicated to countering terrorism, UNODC seeks to uphold the rights and interests of victims and survivors by working with Member States to strengthen the implementation of national legislation and policies that support and protect victims of terrorism. As an extension of this work, UNODC has published several assistance tools to enhance the capacity of governments and other stakeholders to build institutional capacity to support victims of terrorism and to enhance their role in the criminal justice process.

In partnership with the Government of Nigeria, UNODC has been working to strengthen the criminal justice response to terrorism and promote greater accountability for the perpetration of acts of terrorism, including through the integration of a gender perspective in our work. Emphasizing the role of gender in the criminal justice response to terrorism is essential to supporting victims of terrorism, particularly in recognition of the fact that terrorist groups, such as ISWAP, Boko Haram and Ba Kura, systematically target women and girls through acts of sexual and gender-based violence – such as rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage – as a means of achieving tactical, strategic and ideological aims.

On August 20, 2021, UNODC hosted a virtual event to commemorate the 4th International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, with a focus on exploring the psychological and psychosocial needs of victims of terrorism, and to promote sustainable and accessible care for victims of terrorism. This virtual event featured a diverse panel, including representatives from the Lebanese Association for Victims of Terrorism, the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, the Grief Directory, the Medical Women’s International Association and victims and survivors of ISIS.

Highlighting the importance of the day for Nigeria and illustrating the necessity of providing support to victims and survivors of terrorism, Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi, President of the Medical Women’s International Association, told participants: “Today is a day to remember, but is also a day to meet the very practical needs of countless of survivors, including those of the Boko Haram conflict, where we have widows, child widows, wives who have disappeared, and children called bad blood on account of being products of forced abductions and sexual violence by Boko Haram”.

For the UNODC Country Office in Nigeria this International Day of Remembrance is especially important as we mark the tenth anniversary of the terrorist bombing of the UN House in Abuja on 26 August 2011. We especially honor the sacrifice of our dear UNODC colleague, Ingrid Midtgaard, who was among the 23 people killed in the attack. We also honor our UNODC colleagues who were injured on that terrible day, yet would not be deterred from their mission to serve the peoples of the world, and remain an inspiration to all of us at UNODC.

Since 2019, UNODC has been providing technical expertise and advising the development of the draft Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Bill. The Bill aims to codify the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2011 and Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013 and improve on the existing laws, including through the criminalization of acts of sexual and gender-based violence and the recruitment of children. The draft Bill also tentatively foresees the provision of a Victims Trust Fund in the Office of the Attorney General. The Fund, which will be regulated and managed by a Special Victims Trust Fund Committee, will help compensate victims of acts of terrorism in Nigeria.

UNODC is also currently working closely in partnership with the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) to develop model legislative provisions on victims of terrorism that can assist States, including by promoting the exchange of information regarding existing good practices.

Individual acts of terrorism cast a long shadow, leaving physical, mental, and emotional scars that can persist for decades. The victims of these attacks often need help, support, and understanding to come to terms with their experiences. The International Day of Remembrance is part of a widespread international effort to focus attention on these enduring needs.