VSE’s latest work for victims of terrorism

5 Jul, 2017

Victim Support Europe has been working tirelessly for victims of terrorism since the terrorist attacks in France in 2015. While we remain an organisation working for rights and services for all victims of crime we saw how the basic needs of victims of terrorism were not being met.

In the last years we have established an international response network which is committed to offering support to victims of terrorism in most countries of the EU as well as other countries in Europe and beyond, including Canada, United States and Brazil. We now cover around 28 countries but must continue to expand so no foreign victim is left alone on their return home.  We have also been looking to the long term. We have to ensure that all countries have the right systems – victim oriented systems – to be able to support the victims. We have therefore been developing a coherent set of policies and proposals for laws and services to support victims of terrorism, and have brought together an international group of experts in the field to ensure we advocate for the best practices that exist globally. Based on those efforts, we have been able to support the European Union to include victims’ rights in newly agreed European terrorism legislation.

At the end of 2015, the European Commission took the initiative to propose a new European Directive on combatting terrorism.  That proposal largely ignored the specific needs of victims of terrorism. Working with European Members of Parliament and with the ongoing support of the European Commission, Victim Support Europe was able to introduce around 37 amendments that ensured key rights for victims of terrorism were included in the Directive. The Directive was agreed by the Council in March 2017.

Since April 2017 we have continued to work with victims’ associations, European NGOs, European institutions and victims to support improved laws and support for victims of terrorism. In the last few months we have continued our work on victims of terrorism.

EIPA Study on Victims of Terrorism

This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the LIBE Committee and conducted by VSE, presents a glimpse into the international, as well as selected national responses, to the raising global threat of terrorism and the consequent increase in victimisation. The study is based on the research conducted into the legislation and policy responses to the needs of victims of terrorism in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Conferences and workshops

Victim Support Europe was one of the founding members of IFDIS – International Framework for Dialogue and Information Sharing – that brings together experts on terrorism from around the world to share good practices and support each other in the aftermath of attacks. The group brings together police makers and victim support providers who have vast experience and expertise on the topic from Victim Support organisations in Europe and the world, FBI, Canadian Ombudsman for Victims of crime and many others. In May 2017 IFDIS organised a first closed symposium on Victim of Terrorism in Dublin where we spent a day bringing together predictable challenges in the aftermath of terrorist attacks and the good practices and lessons learnt that can inspire and improve victim support for victims of terrorism. The participants were policy makers, international agencies, victim support organisations from all over the world, trauma experts, law enforcement and judiciary who had one objective improving rights, policies and services for victims of terrorism. The interesting Symposium will result in a first IFDIS publication that seeks to inspire and motivate policy makers and support providers to improve support for victims of terrorism.

On the 8th and 9th of June Victim Support Europe attended an international seminar on Specific and Comprehensive assistance to victims of terrorism in Europe.  The seminar was held in Madrid and An Verelst of Victim Support Europe was invited to speak on support for victims of terrorism around Europe. The participants came from across Europe to follow the interesting speeches and panels providing an overview of work on victims of terrorism. At the same seminar, Helgard van Huellen, vice-president of VSE and Deputy National Chair of Weisser Ring Germany presented the situation and support of German victims of terrorism in the previous years. Weisser Ring has been helping 80% of the victims of the Berlin attacks and shared their experiences and the difficulties victims of terrorism attacks

Coordination and support to victims of terrorist attacks

Since our last Newsletter, Europe was struck multiple times by dreadful terrorist attacks. Attacks in Stockholm, Paris, Manchester, London took the lives of many dozens, injured over a hundred and left many hundreds affected. Our Victim Support Europe Members were immediately involved in support of victims of the different attacks. Through our terrorism response network we have informed victim support units around the EU and beyond about the attacks, information on support and contacts for victims of the attacks. We facilitated referral between governments and  victim support organisations in different countries through our response network – to ensure that foreign victims of crime or families abroad are supported wherever they are. We have developed and provided materials and expert advice for victim support organisations involved to support them in providing specialised assistance to victims of terrorism. We continue to work closely with our Members to follow up and support where we can.

Supporting legislation and policy for victims of terrorism

Levent Altan was invited to speak at the European Network for Victims of Crime in Paris. This network allows representatives of all Member States to come together on victims’ issues, discuss challenges and good practices. Victim Support Europe is proud to be a partner to the ENVR and support governments in developing policies and implementing practices for victims of crime. This meeting VSE was asked to present the potential role of civil society in the support for victims of terrorism.

Victim Support Europe was invited by DG Home and DG Justice of the European Commission to present on the rights, support and protection of victims of terrorism during the first transposition workshop for the EU Directive on Combatting Terrorism. Policy makers and legislators of the different Member States expressed their interest in good practices in legislation and policy and asked for further collaboration with VSE to implement the EU Directive.

In Belgium, the government has taken the initiative to develop a law project for victims of terrorism. The law project includes engagements to introduce a recognition of victims of terrorism as well as provide support to victims of terrorism. Victim Support Europe has supported V-Europe and the Belgian government on the law by providing feedback on proposals, raising concern on issues in the law and providing additional information. VSE particularly expressed its concern with the existing law project’s stance on the different treatment between Belgians and non-Belgians. We hope the law that will be approved by the Belgian parliament includes the necessary legal provisions ensuring all victims of terrorism receive the same recognition and support regardless whether they are a Belgian citizens, EU citizens or third country nationals.

Collaboration with civil society and governments

VSE sees collaboration with governments and civil society for victims of terrorism as a condition to improving legislation, policies and practices. Through collaboration across Europe and around the world VSE aims to link experts, victim support providers, governments and victims’ association with each other and connect them with existing good practices. Implementation of quality support for victims of terrorism means working together honouring the existing expertise and fighting together to increase and improve support in all EU Members States. Victim Support Europe Members are working on a daily basis with victims of crime and increasingly with victims of terrorism. Victim Support Europe recognises and applauds their daily efforts and unceasing engagements to ensure victims of terrorism, like all victims of crime, receive the support they need.