Victims’ right to access to justice is a fundamental human right and a principle of the rule of law. Numerous international and regional human rights legal instruments refer to the right to access to justice which encompasses, inter alia, the right to an effective remedy and the right to a fair trial. To exercise this right, States have the obligation to provide adequate avenues for victims to access the judicial system and have their cases heard before a competent jurisdiction.
Terrorist acts often entail a large number of victims, with sometimes multiple nationalities and different kinds of harm (material, psychological, mental, emotional) involved. These harms can have a long-lasting impact on victims’ lives. Among victims’ needs after the commission of crimes linked to terrorism, access to justice plays a primordial role. While survivors are trying to rebuild their lives and overcome the trauma, States do not always ensure adequate support for them and their families. In June 2023, UN General Assembly Resolution 77/298 (UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy eighth review) highlighted the need to ensure that victims of terrorism’s right to access to justice and redress mechanisms is fully respected. However, many obstacles remain to be overcome. For instance, the inexistence of victims’ participation provisions, the lack of information, the absence of legal aid, and the unavailability of interpretation for foreign victims can prevent the exercise of victims’ right to access to justice.
How can these obstacles be resolved? How can the experiences, perspectives and priorities of victims be (best) considered during the investigation and trial process? And what are the victims’ experiences with the judicial system? These are some of the questions to answer in order to facilitate victims’ fight to access justice. The following panellists will discuss these and other questions:
Niki Siampakou, Joint Research Fellow ICCT and Asser Institute
Jeanne Sulzer is founding partner of Impact Litigation Law firm, representing victims of international crimes.
Hope Rikkelman is the director of Yazidi Legal Network and head of the Iraq & Syria projects at the Nuhanovic Foundation.
Catherine Marchi-Uhel is the Head of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 (IIIM)
*Image sourced from UNAMA/Fraidoon Poya