Middle East: Discussions on the Victims of Ethnic and Religious Violence

14th May 2018  - Brussels, Belgium

Ms Cristina Albertin, UNODC Regional Representative for the Middle East and North Africa, was invited to attend on the 14th May 2018, the 3rd International Conference at Ministerial Level on the Victims of Ethnic and Religious Violence in the Middle East. The one-day conference was hosted by H.E. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Kingdom of Belgium, Didier Reynders, and H.E. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of the Lebanese Republic, Gebran Bassil.

Three years after the first Conference in Paris and one year after the one in Madrid, this third Conference provided the opportunity to reconvene the international community in order to keep the minds focused on the fate of victims of ethnic and religious violence in the Middle East, to identify the measures still needed to ensure a continued, safe, dignified and sustainable return of displaced communities, and to discuss new or additional measures to ensure, now and in the longer term, the preservation of the ethnic and confessional diversity of the Middle-East.

The Conference was an opportunity to evaluate actions taken by the United Nations and the UN Agencies such as UNODC and look into further improvements of their implementation. In this regard, Ms Albertin addressed the Conference on accountability and reconciliation in our collective efforts to reach the  SDG 16 on Peace, justice and strong institutions  in the complex context of violence against ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East. The Representative stated that in order to achieve SDG 16, the international community needs to look seriously at global level, but especially in conflict, post-conflict and fragile societies into the real capacity of criminal justice systems with a view to ensure that they can and do deliver on what they have been created for: bring perpetrators to justice and provide victims of crimes, including of organized crimes, of violence and terrorism with protection and justice thus being accountable to victims and the public in the delivery of justice. She explained that UNODC's work targets both the criminal justice response to perpetrators and the response to victims with a focus to ensuring access to justice, for marginalized and vulnerable persons, or groups with specific needs.

In her speech, Ms Albertin conveyed that "The battle for justice for the victims is daunting and uphill. Criminal justice systems in the region already face many challenges in discharging justice given the evolving and more complex crimes and acts of terrorism. They often lack human and financial resources, equipment, facilities and specialized training not only in investigations, but also in applying victim-centered approaches. Criminal justice institutions in the region, especially in the conflict countries require our urgent attention, our solid resources and comprehensive support to be able to deliver justice to all the victims of violence and terrorism, enable reconciliation and to honor our commitment on SDG 16 for strong institutions grounded in the rule-of law and human rights for a stable and peaceful future of the people in the Middle East". 

The Conference also gave a voice to representatives of minorities and allowed them to express their needs, what they saw as durable solutions and their views on what has been done so far for their protection. Ms Nadia Murad, the UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of the Survivors of Human Trafficking and tireless advocate of the Yezidi cause, gave a strong testimony on the current situation of Yezidis and other minorities in Iraq.

Read Cristina Albertin's speech here