Iraq: Providing Support to Victims of Terrorism

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26th July 2018


Following the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq in July 2017, the national justice system is now encountering the cases and claims of thousands of direct and indirect victims who have experienced violence, crime and atrocities of different nature at the hands of ISIL. During the criminal justice process, it is important that victims can tell their story in their own way and that they are prepared and supported psychologically for their appearance in the court without any risk of revictimization.

Under the UNODC project "Strengthening the Legal Regime Against Terrorism in Iraq after the liberation of Mosul (2018-2019), the Global Programme on Terrorism Prevention held, for the first time, a workshop on "Supporting victims of terrorism in Iraq following ISIL's military defeat" in Erbil, Iraq from 23 to 26 June 2018. Together with the Superior Judicial Council, some 10 victims were identified who had experienced the most heinous crimes and violence With the help of a specialized NGO, "Association des Victimes du Terrorismes - Liban", the victims received counselling and psychological support as well as legal information regarding their rights as victims. Part of the workshop included the space to talk about their traumatic experiences and guide them on how to deal with their memories building psychological resilience to balance their life after terrorist attacks. Art therapy was used to help the victims unfold their coping skills and strengths as well as externalize their internalized fears related to violent trauma.

At the end of the workshop, the supported victims expressed that "although it's hard to forget what ISIL has done to us and to move on, I learned now that it is not impossible. I am not alone in this, and that's why we should all get together to rebuild what they have destroyed".

The UNODC/TPB project is supporting Iraq in building safer communities in the liberated areas. UNODC/TPB will continue providing legal and psychological support to victims of terrorism, including children and women and will continue to enhance the capacity of criminal justice and law enforcement officers and to promote awareness about the importance of supporting and assisting victims of acts of terrorism thus also contributing to the Sustainable Development Goal 16 on strong, effective and accountable institutions and access to justice.

The activity was possible thanks to the generous contribution of the Government of Japan.