International Victimology Institute Tilburg

INTERVICT promotes and executes interdisciplinary research that can contribute to a comprehensive, evidence-based body of knowledge on the empowerment and support of victims of crime and abuse of power.

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Implementing the UN Victim Declaration - INTERVICT

Implementing the UN Victim Declaration of 1985

A Joint Project of INTERVICT and the World Society of Victomology

Annually, hunderds of millions of people, including many women and children, throughout the world suffer harm as a result of crime, terrorism and the criminal abuse of power. According to global statistics presented at the UN Crime Congress in Bangkok, one in three inhabitants of cities across the world are hit by crime every year. A report of the WHO on Women's Health and Domestic Violence ( WHO, 2005) estimates that in many countries as many as 30 % of all women become victims of partner violence during their lifetime. The 2005 Human Security Report documents the range and depth of victimization by terrorism and other forms of political violence (The Human Security Report 2005).

In 1985, the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power. Materials have been produced to assist countries in the use and application of the Declaration such as The Handbook on Justice for Victims. More recently, the Victim Declaration was complemented by the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Rights to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (GA, 2005) and by the Guidelines for Child Victims and Witnesses ( ECOSOC, 2005).

The United Nations can take pride in its leading role in setting international standards concerning the treatment of victims. Many of these standards have found their way in both domestic legislation and in the new crime conventions of the UN such as the UNTOC and its protocol against trafficking in persons.

In spite of these laudable efforts, the rights of victims are still not always adequately recognized and they may, in addition, suffer hardship when assisting the authorities in prosecuting the perpetrators. Fortunately, the Member States in the Declaration of the UN Crime Congress in Bangkok have underlined the importance of giving special attention to the need to protect witnesses and victims of crime and terrorism and have reaffirmed their commitment to stenghtening, where needed, the legal and financial framework for providing support to such victims, taking into account, inter alia, the Declaration on Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power.

The World Society of Victimology, the world's premier organization lobbying for victims rights internationally, and the International Victimology Institute Tilburg (INTERVICT) convened in December 2005 at Tilburg University, The Netherlands, an informal meeting with representatives from different regions to discuss the follow up to the Bangkok consensus on victim rights.

The following objectives were discussed

  1. Discussion of the question whether a UN Convention would be the proper instrument to stimulate further implementation of and compliance with the basic principles contained in the Declaration;
  2. Prepare a cogent first draft of the convention, including a preamble, a section on rights and a section on ways to encourage and/or enforce implementation
  3. Propose terms of reference for a UN Secretary General's Special Rapporteur on Victims of Crime, Abuse of Power and Terrorism
  4. Develop a strategic plan to have a convention adopted and ratified.
Regarding the fourth objective, the WSV attended the Fifteenth Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and addressed the Commission with the following recommendations:

  • that States make all possible efforts to incorporate and apply the said basic principles and guidelines concerning victims in their domestic legislation and practices, including those concerning acts of criminal terrorism, as well as in international legislation and practices of international courts and other international organizations;
  • to request the Secretariat of the UN Crime Commission to convene an Expert Group meeting with equitable geopraphical repesentation to study ways and means to promote the use and application of the said basic principles and guidelines with particular attention for :

    updating of existing manuals and handbooks, including with new materials on victims of terrorism and gross violations of human rights law ;

    provision of technical asssistance to developing countries to strengthen service delivery to victims in accordance with UN standards.

Member States may also wish to invite the expert group to consider the desirability and feasability of the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on Rights of Victims of Crime and of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and the elaboration of a UN Convention on the rights of such victims.

Conclusions 15th Session Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

The Commission Secretariat Section of UNODC is currently finalizing the report of the 15th session of the Crime Commission. The report, which will contain both a summary of the discussions held during the Commission as well as the resolutions adopted by the Commission, will be submitted to the Economic and Social Council at its July session. Most of the draft resolutions endorsed by the Crime Commission need to be adopted by the Economic and Social Council. Resolution L.2/Rev.2 is the one related to victims; see paragraph 8 of the draft resolution:

Requests the Secretary-General to convene, within available extrabudgetary resources, not excluding the use of existing resources from the regular budget of the Office, an intergovernmental expert group meeting, based on equitable geographical representation and open to observers, in cooperation with institutes of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme network, to design an information-gathering instrument in relation to United Nations standards and norms related primarily to victim issues and to study ways and means to promote their use and application, and to report on progress made in that connection to the Commission at its sixteenth session.

IEGM November 2006

From 27 to 29 November 2006 Marc Groenhuijsen attended the IEGM of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna, which aimed (a) to design an information gathering instrument on standards and norms related primarily to victim issues and (b) to study ways and means to promote their use and application.
All in all, some 50 people participated. There were delegates from governments such as Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Germany, Iran, Japan, Lebanon, Marocco, Peru, Poland, South Africa, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, USA and Venezuela. Then there were representatives of all of the Institutes of the UN Programme Network. Experts at large were Cyril Laucci from Canada, Beaty Naude from South Africa, Vesna Nicolic from Serbia and Marc Groenhuijsen from the Netherlands.

The first days were spent on discussing the draft questionnaire (which can be seen on the internet: please click here. The final day was about the 'means and ways' clause in the mandate of the IEGM. The end result of this discussion will soon appear on the website of UNODC. INTERVICT and World Society of Victimology, managed to get three major ideas incorporated in the final conclusions:

  1. A reference to the Draft Convention that was designed by the Expert Group Meeting INTERVICT hosted and organised in December 2005;
  2. The idea of 'voluntary peer review' was accepted and included in the conclusions, labeled as 'voluntary peer sharing';
  3. Governments are encouraged to seek assistance of NGO's in completing the questionnaire.

The report of the IEGM will be submitted to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at its sixteenth session. The report can be downloaded here.

Conclusions 16th Session Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, April 2007

From 23-27 April, Marc Groenhuijsen attended the 16th Session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, in Vienna, as a representative of the World Society of Victimology. The overall goals for WSV attendance were:

  1. Attaining higher priority for victims' issues in the UNODC (United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime)
  2. Explore interest of governments in supporting an initiative to develop and adopt a Victims' Rights Convention
  3. Ensure follow through on the recommendations from the IEGM last November on the victim questionnaire and related practical steps to improve implementation of the UN Declaration (1985).

Several members of the Executive Committee of the WSV, including Marc, addressed the plenary session of the Commission. The Commission did not support the idea of a Victims' Rights Convention. The developed victim questionnaire did receive support. See for more information the Draft Resolution on the UNODC website, item 'Report of the 16th Crime Commission'.

Follow-Up Activities 2008-2009

The UN Liaison Committee of the WSV pursued its activities in 2008 and 2009. The strategic objectives that have been pursued by the committee were the following:

  • promote the new questionnaire that was under construction in the UN
  • prioritise victims' issues within UNODC
  • exert influence on the UN Commission meeting in April 2008 and April 2009 to work on standards and norms regarding further implementation of the Declaration
  • continue to develop a comprehensive strategy aimed at getting a UN Convention on victims' rights adopted
  • aiming to get victims included in the general theme of the next UN Crime Congress in Brazil
  • aiming to organise a workshop on victims' issues at the next UN Crime Congress
The committee undertook many activities in order to attain these objectives. Three major events will be recorded here.

The first is that the Committee has been consistently in touch with ISPAC. Maria de la Luz Lima, Karen McLaughlin, John Dussich and Janice Joseph attended the annual meeting of ISPAC on behalf of WSV and have been very effective promoting our cause. During the year, many other contacts have been established between (members of) ISPAC and our committee.
Quite importantly, TIVI in Mito organized a symposium on 'The proposed UN Convention on justice for victims of crime and abuse of power'. The symposium took place on 15-16 February 2008. On the first day there were keynote speeches on 'the current status of the Convention' and on 'UN legal instruments in general'. Furthermore, there were detailed discussions on the content of the existing draft Convention; many changes in its wording were suggested. An overview can be downloaded here.
The third memorable event was the 17th session of the UN Crime Commission in April 2008. The WSV committee was very well represented during this week, with six members attending. There is quite some good news to report from this meeting. We were able to make progress in raising the number of WSV-membership and in calling attention for the upcoming International Symposium in Mito in 2009. We attracted serious support for the idea of having a UN Convention on victims' rights, for instance from princess Bajrakitiyabha from Thailand (thanks to a very effective introduction done by Maria de la Luz Lima) and from representatives from Brazil. The president of WSV, John Dussich, addressed the plenary; his speech on the need for a UN Convention was well received. And we achieved endorsements of the idea of setting up INTERVICT as part of the UN program network (Kauko Aaroma from HEUNI; Claudia Baroni from UNODC, who instructed us on the proper procedures to follow).
It has to be noted, though, that there was no possibility to have any influence on the wording of the theme of the next Crime Congress or on the content of the accompanying workshops. This apparently was pre-decided by a body of agents we did not have access to.
At the meeting of the WSV Executive Committee held in Japan from 2 to 3 August 2008, the activities of the UN Liaison Committee were extensively discussed. Furthermore, it was decided to draft a Draft Resolution to the 18th UN Crime Commission Congress to be held in Vienna from 16 to 24 April 2009. It was also decided to develop a marketing strategy and an Action Plan for 2009 and 2010.

The results of the 18th UN Crime Commission were presented in the beginning of May 2009.