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    Irvin Waller calls for governments to meet international standards of victim assistance and invest in preventing victimization.


Where are the political champions for crime victim rights? (post 24)

A shout-out for the political champions for victim rights at the International Criminal Court and the EU.  A call for national political champions for victim rights to put their money where their mouth is.

The chief justice of the International Criminal Court is rightly proud of his statute and rules of procedure that provide victims with standing to seek the truth and justice.  Further, the ICC provides for protection and support to victims, including being sensitive to issues of gender, age and vulnerability.  It is not just talk or smoke and mirrors, the ICC is implementing all this and now addressing an innovative way to provide reparation.

The Vice-President of the European Union is close to reaching agreement with 27 countries on an impressive range of standards to provide for the dignity and support of victims across the 500 million citizens of the EU.  Called the EU draft directive, it provides for information and support, standing in criminal proceedings, protection and recognition of vulnerability.  It also provides for some of the critical elements for the implementation of those standards, such as training and statistics.

Yet national legislators are still slow to advance policies to these minimal international standards and adapt best practices to their jurisdiction.

Yes, the ICC takes its legal principles seriously and provides a great model for national jurisdictions to emulate for victims of national crimes.  Unfortunately national political champions are not adapting this.  Worse, when countries such as Canada or Uganda provide for legislation to allow for trials of persons who would otherwise be tried at the ICC, they have not provided anything close to the services and rights for victims that are a reality at the ICC itself.

Yes, the EU directive will be an important step forward but much more will be needed to get national political champions to advance practice in their country to those international standards.  Even the directive itself needs to be strengthened with the governance procedures proposed in my draft national legislation (see Rights for Victims of Crime) and the draft UN convention that inspired it.  The evaluation of the earlier and more moderate set of standards agreed in 2001 showed many gaps.  Stereotypically, the standards were more likely to be implemented among those countries already at the leading edge.  Among many recommendations, the evaluators called for equitable representation of victims.

Recently, legislators in Canada, Mexico and the USA all announced initiatives but more than anything these demonstrate how much more is needed.  There was no investment in effective and proven prevention and smart policing to reduce the billions of dollars in pain and loss of quality of life.  Just for adults, these are estimated at- $83 billion in Canada, $450 billion in USA and now likely worse in Mexico.  There was no rebalancing of budgets sufficient to demonstrate a serious commitment to implementation of the UN Declaration on Basic Principles of Justice for Victims.  There was no legislation to ensure that victims would be represented in an way that is equitable to how accused are represented in criminal courts.

In April, the US Congress continued the Violence against Women´s Act, support for Child Advocacy Centers and moved forward on the Victims of Crime Act.  Each of these has funds and an impressive governance mechanism to get implementation.  These transfer close to $2 billion each year to ensure implementation at the state and local level.  The bi-partisan caucus on victim rights in the US Congress has introduced an amendment to their constitution to enshrine the right to safety, restitution and justice.  All of these are good but more is needed to sustain services and compensation for victims in an equitable way.  The constitutional amendment is a step in the right direction but more is needed to guarantee remedies so that victims have the range of human rights for truth, personal safety, and prevention of victimization.

In April, the Mexican Congress adopted crime victim legislation that is comprehensive and impressive, in part paralleling the model national legislation.  It focusses on help, information, access to justice, standing in the criminal process, reparation and a search for the truth.  It includes executive responsibility centers to encourage implementation.

Canadian provinces are slow to advance to international standards.  Services are becoming more widely available, though recommendations such as ensuring that police officers inform victims of those services, have been slower to materialize.  Issues such as restitution and standing in criminal proceedings are still for the future.  Federally the increases in funds for child advocacy clinics and victim organizations seem minor compared to the challenge.

We know how to prevent people from being the victims of crime by investing in what is effective before folk are victimized rather than unsatisfactory reaction after the fact.  We can support victims, provide reparation and ensure justice. Numerous websites and my two recent books provide ample and compelling knowledge for national political champions to stand up for victims.  They show where legislation should be modernized and examples of programs that are already meeting those standards at least in part.

Political champions are needed to be on the side of victims, put their money where their mouth is and rebalance budgets and actions to provide safety, service, reparation, truth and justice for victims of crime.

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