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Remarks by Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights at the Panel Event “The Rights of Victims of Terrorism”, 2 April 2012, United Nations, New York

2 April 2012
United Nations
New York

I am grateful to the Permanent Mission of Spain and to the Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force for the invitation to participate in this important panel event.

As Chair of the CTITF Working Group on Protecting Human rights While Countering Terrorism (one of 8 working groups), and an active member of the Working Group on Supporting and Highlighting Victims of Terrorism, our Office is committed to ensuring accountability and respect for the human rights of victims of terrorism, and to promoting international solidarity in support of victims, their families and communities.

The Secretary-General’s Symposium on Supporting Victims of Terrorism in 2008 reaffirmed the critical position that victims have in efforts to counter terrorism.  The Symposium produced a number of recommendations for practical measures to be taken in order to ensure these rights are respected.

Building on these recommendations, in June of last year, our Office organised a panel discussion on the human rights of victims of terrorism.
The discussion sought to raise awareness and deepen understanding of issues related to the human rights of victims, and to provide an opportunity to share good practices at international, regional and national levels.

A number of Member States shared their experiences in developing national legislation and policies, as well as establishing mechanisms and funds to support victims of terrorism, in line with the Global Counterterrorism Strategy. Several points were reinforced in the course of the panel discussion. Here, I would like to highlight a couple of key issues:

  • First, policies and mechanisms to support victims must be grounded in the fundamental principles and standards enshrined in international human rights instruments, in particular the right to an effective remedy, including reparation. The framework provided by the Declaration on Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power and the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of Human Rights and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, adopted by General Assembly resolutions in 1985 and 2005 are useful when addressing the needs of victims of terrorist acts.
  • Second, recognition of the impact of terrorist acts on direct and indirect victims, as well as safeguarding the dignity of victims, is critical. This may be done through a range of actions, from acknowledgement that a person and his or her family have been victimized and ensuring that those killed in a terrorist attack are properly identified, to providing concrete support to victims. Respect for victims’ dignity, not only in the immediate aftermath of an attack but also throughout the course of lengthy administrative and legal processes, is essential. Victims may require immediate assistance and long term medical and psycho-social support, as well as financial support to help make up for the destruction of their property or loss of their livelihoods and jobs. Ensuring access to a full range of support services for victims is essential.
  • Third, victims should be provided information, in a timely, truthful and transparent manner, about the facts and circumstances of the terrorist act and any ensuing investigations and judicial proceedings. Victims should be given the possibility to effectively participate and express their views in judicial proceedings and other mechanisms to elucidate the truth behind the events. Victims who chose to participate must be protected against intimidation, retaliation and arbitrary interference with their right to privacy.
  • Fourth, victims must be provided with equal access to justice and an effective remedy, through which they can access fair, adequate and prompt reparation for the harm suffered. Reparation schemes have to be victims’ centred and follow a participatory approach. Victims may need appropriate assistance throughout legal proceedings, including free legal aid. Particular support will be needed when the victim is not from the country where the incident has taken place and is not familiar with the local justice system.
  • Fifth, building solidarity with victims through a range of measures is vital to ensuring respect for their human rights and mitigating the consequences of terrorism.  In some countries, remembrance days have been established as one aspect of providing reparation and expressing profound solidarity with the victims.
  • Sixth, in order to protect minority communities from public hostility and misguided retaliation, any public acknowledgment of terrorist attacks has to accurately reflect the facts and should recognize one simple truth: Terrorists acts are perpetrated by extremist individuals on the fringe of society and not attributable to whole communities.
  • Finally, States need to put in place comprehensive policies and mechanisms to prevent further terrorist attacks. These measures need to effectively address human rights violations, enhance respect for the rule of law and tackle the underlying causes of terrorism, such as obstacles to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Pillar IV of the Global Counterterrorism Strategy defines respect for human rights and the rule of law as the fundamental basis of the fight against terrorism and stresses the need to promote and protect the rights of victims of terrorist acts. 
We have identified and shared examples of good practices. Therefore, there is no excuse not to stand to our commitments.