Most victims of terrorism are innocent citizens who find themselves at the wrong place and at the wrong time, randomly targeted in brutal attacks. The lives of survivors of attacks, and those of victims’ families, are irreparably damaged. Many survivors take years to recover physically from their injuries or come to terms with their losses, and many remain deeply traumatized.
While States take terrorism very seriously as a security threat, they do not necessarily always ensure adequate support to victims and their families. Victims of terrorism and their families need focused and dedicated mechanisms to ensure that their rights as individuals are upheld and protected.
The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy directly addresses the issue of victims of terrorist acts. It lists measures to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, including to counter the "dehumanization of victims of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations". It also encourages the creation of national systems of assistance, which would "promote the needs of victims of terrorism and their families and facilitate the normalization of their lives".
UNODC works together with Member States to strengthen the implementation of national legislation and policies that support and protect victims of acts of terrorism. We do this in close partnership with governments, victims’ organizations and civil society groups.
Victims of terrorism have a central role to play in ensuring effective investigation and prosecution of terrorist cases. They contribute to collecting evidence, providing testimonies, identifying perpetrators and also countering extremist narratives.
Together with the Lebanese Association for Victims of Terrorism (AVT-L), we are working with partners in Iraq to guarantee victims’ rights during criminal proceedings. We promote the rehabilitation and empowerment of victims of terrorism within their communities through psychological support. AVT-L has more than 10 years of experience in providing support to victims of terrorism in the Middle East, especially in remote locations of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
Through this project, we support the criminal justice system to clearly define the role of victims of terrorism and of witnesses. This includes support and protection while preventing secondary victimization. The psychological support we provide to witnesses and victims of terrorism is also crucial to ensure their effective participation in criminal proceedings.
This psychological support serves to protect the rights and the role of victims of terrorism within the national criminal justice system through a victim-centred approach. We focus on key international requirements, in particular:
Our current activities build on a joint project on supporting victims of terrorism in Iraq following ISIL’s military defeat (2018).
From victims of terrorism to messengers for peace: a strategic approach is aimed at enhancing the capacity of governments and other stakeholders to increase support for victims of terrorism. The strategy draws on the work of the Victims’ Voices initiative, which allows victims of terrorism to share their experiences first-hand to help promote peace and delegitimize justifications for terrorist violence. Drawing on the results of victims’ direct engagements with over 8,000 youths across Indonesia, the Victims’ Voices initiative shows that victims’ stories are most impactful when shared directly by victims, in their own words.
Following the request of the General Assembly in its resolution 66/178 (2011), we developed Good Practices in Supporting Victims of Terrorism within the Criminal Justice Framework in 2015. The publication provides strategies to implement laws and to build institutional capacity to incorporate victims of terrorism into criminal justice investigations and prosecutions.
We further developed a handbook on The Criminal Justice Response to Support Victims of Acts of Terrorism. This resource takes stock of national experiences and programmes to support victims of acts of terrorism, addressing relevant international standards and norms as well as national legislation.
Together with our partners the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, we are developing model legislative provisions on victims of terrorism. The provisions will aim to support lawmakers as a model for the review of existing laws and procedures related to victims of terrorism. The provisions can systematize and promote the exchange of information regarding existing good practices.
Our work on supporting the victims of terrorism has been supported by contributions from Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.