|Handbook on Justice for Victims (UNODCCP, 1999, 132 p.)|
|Chapter V: Working together at the international level|
To have maximum effect, regional initiatives on behalf of victims will need to be taken within a broader international context, in which there is interregional feedback. Some of the victim-related problems facing different regions are similar in nature, although their outward manifestations may vary; they all require incisive action to spur local improvements and complement them as necessary. This is particularly the case where there is serious victimization that the authorities are unable or unwilling to curtail and victims are largely deprived of any remedies. The drafters of the Declaration envisaged this alternative and specifically called for the development, at the international and regional levels, of ways and means of providing appropriate recourse and redress for victims where national channels may be insufficient.
Some such avenues already exist in United Nations human rights complaint procedures, and others have been recently introduced by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (for example, a hotline) or have been proposed (for example, by the special rapporteurs), as has been the appointment of an international ombudsman and establishment of the right of petition. The prospects of an international criminal jurisdiction to help pursue wrongdoers were advanced by the creation of the international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, which have victim-witness protection units but have encountered practical difficulties in their work. The Statute of the envisaged International Criminal Court, finalized by a preparatory committee on the basis of recommendations made by the International Law Commission and proposals made by Governments and non-governmental organizations and expert groups, contains a section on victims that has been expanded with input from the expert meetings on implementation of the Victim Declaration. The Statute of the International Criminal Court, which includes a provision in its article 79 for the transfer of fines and assets confiscated from offenders primarily to a trust fund for victims, was finalized and adopted at a Plenipotentiary Conference of Ministers, held in Rome from 15 June to 17 July 1998.
The reports of various United Nations investigative commissions and missions of inquiry (conducted, among others, by the United Nations special rapporteurs or representatives, or in connection with peacekeeping or humanitarian operations) have provided ample evidence of massive victimization, but those harmed and their kin have yet to receive the consideration that is their due and at least some form of redress. Much more needs to be done to prevent such cataclysms from occurring in the first place: this is the major global challenge for the years to come.
Precluding - or at least reducing - impunity for the crimes committed may be a prime means of deterring potential offenders, especially in cases of massive victimization. All too often in the past, perpetrators have been able to escape accountability for their crimes by hiding in safe havens and/or profiting from broad amnesty laws or symbolic proceedings without being deprived of the spoils of their nefarious actions.