Recognizing the pain that terrorism inflicts on society, the United States of America today addressed the needs of victims of terrorism by unveiling its comprehensive strategy to better integrate their voices of the victims into global counter-terrorist efforts.
In her remarks at the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) High-Level Conference on Victims of Terrorism in Madird, Under Secretary Maria Otero for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights says around the world, terrorists make their mark on the world through acts of hate.
“Terrorists proclaim their values with a deep and disturbing indifference to human life.” -Ms. Otero
She stresses that the Global Counterterrorism Forum or GCTF offers a unique venue for bringing together governments, victims, and other interested stakeholders to share experiences and good practices in this critical and emotionally charged area.
At the Forum, Ms. Otero reveals the US comprehensive strategy to address the needs of victims and also integrate their voices into counter-terrorist efforts.
“First, governments must be sure that victims of terrorism have the information they need and access to resources available from the state and the international community.” -Ms. Otero
She cites that the road to recovery is long, but it is made all the easier by accessible information and resources from medical care to legal representation to psychological services.
Governments should also ensure that the families of victims have access to these services, so that they can support the survivor’s recovery process, Ms. Otero highlighted.
Second, victims should have the opportunity to participate in the accountability process that follows any terrorist attack. They should have access to the perpetrators’ court proceedings, and be afforded protection if necessary, so that they may work towards recovery, Ms. Otero cited.
She says victims often play an important role in supporting efforts to bring terrorist to justice, both as witnesses and as advocates for accountability.
“We must strive to protect and foster victim-participation in accountability efforts, while remaining respectful of the psychological challenges such a process can present.” -Ms. Otero
Third, we must provide an environment for support and recovery of victims of terrorism, Ms. Otero pointed out.
Victims should have the chance to meet other survivors and share experiences as each person advances his or her own healing.
In order to create such an environment and network of support, we in the international community must foster an understanding of the unique and diverse needs of survivors, Ms. Otero added.
“And fourth, governments must listen to victims.” -Ms. Otero
In their process of healing and recovery, survivors can inform the global fight against terrorism, Ms. Otero said.
States shoud elevate their voices and stories while also incorporating their wisdom into our counter-terrorism efforts, she stressed.
“We should ensure that those survivors who wish to share their stories have the opportunity to do so on the world stage.” -Ms.Otero
She stresses that by magnifying the voices of survivors, especially through international media, the states has a unique chance to educate the world about the pain inflicted by terrorists.
She notes that though such awareness is tainted with pain and suffering, it is all the more powerful in discouraging radicalized individuals and empowering other victims to speak up against violent extremism.
In November 2011, a United Nations policy guide released offered advice on how to reform and improve criminal justice systems so that they are fairer and more sensitive to the needs of the victims of terrorism and their families.
The publication includes advice for policy-makers and criminal justice officials and examples of good practices to support victims of terrorism. Recommended measures include judicial assistance, protection from intimidation and retaliation, material, medical, psychological and social assistance, and access to compensation.
According to UNODC, victims have long played a secondary and mostly silent role in criminal trials, making it crucial to grant them equal and effective access to justice to ensure the effective prosecution of perpetrators.
The UN has previously taken measures to emphasize the human rights of victims including the adoption of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy five years ago, which the report aims to expand on.