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, and those of their families, can be irrevocably changed. Many victims take years to recover physically from their injuries or come to terms with their losses. Without help, the trauma can be a lifelong sentence.
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 confront the spread of terrorism, including how to counter the "dehumanisation 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 normalisation 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, with a particular focus on remote locations in 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).
At a workshop providing psychological support to victims of terrorism, Narin (not her real name) pictured herself as a body without a face. “I was abducted by ISIL at the age of 17 and was sold and raped by a dozen men”, she says. “To this day, I still do not know what the fate of my abducted mother is, I still don’t know if she is dead or alive”, she adds.To help victims like Narin through legal and psychological support, UNODC, together with the Lebanese Association for Victims of Terrorism (AVT-L) is implementing a new project funded by the Dutch government.
Our work on supporting the victims of terrorism has been supported by contributions from Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.