INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR ON VICTIMS OF TERRORISM 

25 Jun, 2019

INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR ON VICTIMS OF TERRORISM 

INTEGRAL SUPPORT TO VICTIMS OF TERRORISM IN THE 21ST CENTURY 

Tuesday 7th June 2019
Madrid, Spain 

The Spanish Ministry of Interior organised the international seminar on victims of terrorism on Tuesday 7th May 2019, in Madrid, Spain. Three rountables were organised with presentations from different experts in the field of victims of terrorism. Léa Meindre-Chautrand, Policy Officer, and Levent Altan, Executive Directive of VSE, attended the conference.  

Isabel Goicoechea Aranguren, a representative of the Spanish Ministry of Interior opened the Seminar with a general introduction of the situation of victims of terrorism in Spain. She highlighted the cross border aspect of terrorism and the challenges faced by victims in such a situation, such as linguistic barriers, access to compensation and different legal systems. Due to its record of terrorist attacks, Spain managed to turn their pain into experience and positive learning. Spain considers that victims of terrorism should have a specific regulation as they also constitute symbols of democratic States. Mrs. Goicoechea Aranguren also mentioned the essential role of media as creators of opinion and democratic symbols. The Ministry of Interior has established a specific unit: Director General to support victims of terrorism. Its specific goal is to serve victims of terrorism in a comprehensive way in term of processing, bespoke care of victims and their relatives, material and financial support etc. One of the current project of the DG is direct testimony of victims of terrorism in educational centres to ensure that youth knows about the past and is aware that terrorist attacks can happen again. 

The Seminar continued with three roundtable presentations on three different themes: assistance and support to victims of terrorism in the Directive 2017/541 of the European Parliament and the of the Council, the needs of psychological attention to victims of terrorism in the long term, integral attention to cross-border victims.  

Roundtable 1 – Assistance and support to victims of terrorism in the Directive 2017/541 of the European Parliament and the of the Council. Moderator: Maria Lozano Aliaga. Coleader of the group of victims of terrorism of the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) 

Katarzyna Janicka-Pawlowska (DG Just, European Commission) presented the role of the Commission as Guardian of the treaty and the different tools used to monitor the implementation of the Directive by the Member States (notification, letter of formal notice, reasoned opinion, ECJ). The Commission advises Member States to deal with victims in a horizontal, holistic and comprehensive manner to ensure that all victims’ needs are met. Strong strategy and policies are needed. She mentioned the good practice of France with the establishment of Resilience Centres. Mrs. Janicka-Pawlowska announced the tender for the EU Centre of Expertise for victims of terrorism with three main objectives: training, hub of expertise and coordination. The pilot project lasts for 2 years, at the end of the project, there will be an evaluation of the possibility to establish a coordination centre. Finally Mrs. Janicka-Pawlowska encouraged all Member States to fully and correctly transpose the provisions of the Directive on combatting terrorism. 

Nick Taylor, chief executive of the Foundation for Peace, explained the work of the charity in the UK. It covers three main disciplines: prevention, resolution and response to violent conflicts. They responded to the Manchester attack with the SENSE methodology: Stabilisation, Education and Information, Normalisation, Social support, Engagement. Specialist training provider organise events across the country.  

Carmen Ladron de Guevara presented the work of the Asociacion de Victimas de TerorrismoThe Asociacion is composed of experts specialised in psychological, social and legal field in the assistance of victims of terrorism and in terrorism. They also organise commemoration and memorials. They cooperate with the media and prepare victims to interact with media. The Asociaction have experience with cross border victims too, offering psychological, administrative support, and assistance during the criminal proceedings. The Asociacion launched a project to establisg a coordination centre terrorism with a virtual platform on information from each member States for victims of terrorism, including contact details from consulates, specific legislation, guide for media etc. Mrs Ladron de Guevara regrets the lack of coordination with the Ministry of Interior in the assistance during criminal proceedings. 

Philippe Vaansteskiste from V-Europe presented the challenges still faced by victims of the Brussels attacks. In Belgium, victims of terrorism are covered by companies of insurance and not the State. This situation put victims of terrorism in a continuous re-victimisation process. There are still many cases open after 3 years. It also stopped many victims to continue seeking for compensation because of the administrative burden. V-Europe has worked with the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission. Some laws were passed but they still need royal decrees to be properly implemented. V-Europe offers the possibility to victims of terrorism to come together as a family.  They can give expertise to institutions on the needs of victims of terrorism. They also organise memorial and commemoration events.  

Roundtable 2 – The needs of psychological attention to victims of terrorism in the long term. 

Aide de Vicente Colominaprofessor of Psychology at the Cardenal Cisneros University Centre and Member of the Spanish National Network of Psychologist for the care for victims of terrorism,  presented guidelines for quality care for victims of terrorism. The guide offers recommendations and guidelines for actions to agents that are not specialist in mental health and any service members, institutions in contact with victims of terrorism: LEA, police, firefighters etc. The guide was developed in coordination with the Ministry of Justice, DG psychology and DG victims, it uses simple languages and specific guidelines and what to do and what not to do. The main objective is to prevent secondary victimisation. An unsuitable treatment might lead to the victim to reject help later on, increasing stigmatisation and victimisation. A trauma informed model is therefore preferred.  

Enrique Echeburua, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of the Basque Country, presented the psychological path that victims’ of terrorism go through. His powerpoint presentation contained all the relevant information.  

Orla Lynch, Head of Criminology at the University College of Cork in Ireland, presented the interrelation between terrorism and PTSD. In Northern Ireland, there is a transgenerational transmission of trauma. Northern Ireland faces difficulties in progressing and reconciliation as some victim support organisation define themselves according to their conflict identity. Differences in experience trauma between men and women, their needs will not be the same. Victim support organisations are a vital aspect of recovery. A positive issue: post traumatic growth: notion of altruism born of suffering. Victims want to be the last person that this happened to, they want to prevent violent extremism. It is beneficial as a social activity and a personal activity as they see their role as helping others. Art and theatre can be very helpful for victims and larger community to remember and share emotions.  

Roundtable 3 – Integral attention to cross border victims. Moderator: Elena Garzon Otamendi, Directive General of International Relations and Immigration, Spanish Ministry of Home Affairs.  

Mrs. Garzon Otamendi shared the position of the Spanish Ministry of Home Affairs which tries to have a comprehensive approach and care for cross border victims of terrorism.  

Julien Perrier, Deputy Consul Geenral of France in Barcelona, gave a comprehensive presentation of the French experience with cross-borders victims in the Barcelona attacks. In August 2017, a first attack in Barcelona and the next day in Taragona. There were 16 casualties, 5 Spanish and the rest foreigners. Over 130 wounded belong to 34 different countries. 28 victims were French, 6 of which severely wounded. Mrs. Perrier explained that the Ramblas attack had a positive and a negative element for the French Consulate: the office of the Consulate is situated just 500 metres away from the attack which allowed them to react very quickly, on the other hand the attack happened during the summer, the consulate had a reduced number of staff, so less people to carry the necessary tasks.  

Lessons learnt:  

  • Be well prepared: think before end how an attack is going to be handle. Prepare a crisis committee structure, with all the staff, think where to establish the committee and technical facilitate. Conduct drills periodically.  
  • Know how to react quickly: when the crisis occurs, reacting quickly and communicating internally and with local authorities is crucial 
  • Get ready to take care of victims in long term: if victims have to stay longer in hospitals, being in contact with them and medical staff so we know how long they will be staying there and organise their transfer to the country of origin. _____________