Autumn Update from WEISSER RING Austria

18 Oct, 2019

Do EU-States Abandon Victims of Violent Crimes?

This topic was discussed by well-known experts on the 26th of June 2019. The event was conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and WEISSER RING at the House of the European Union in Vienna.

The mutual resume´ was not a clear “no”, even though victims’ rights in Austria are excellent. The basis for discussion was the study “Justice for victims of violent crime”, published by FRA. One aim of the study was to ascertain how victims´ rights were used in practice in all EU member states involved. Secondly, this empirical research can be used to give more tailored advise to institutions and EU member states regarding victims of violent crimes.

Host Wolfgang Bogensberger addressed the question of the origins of the EU´s obligation to take care of victims of violent crimes. He gave the audience a historic overview, ending his talk with the EU victim protection guideline 2012/29, which should have been implemented by November 2015. Bogensberger states: “Now, the question arises as to whether this implementation has been successful. Whether something is only codified or also actually lived and practically carried out are two very different animals.” Udo Jesionek, President WEISSER RING, calls for an improved legal basis for the cooperation between the police and victim support organisations: “It is upsetting that so many things could and should be done, but nothing happens. The ones falling by the wayside are the victims.”

Albin Dearing (FRA) presented the main findings of the study: “Victims of violence have legitimate rights to participate as parties during legal proceedings. State authorities are asked to ensure the human rights of individuals and to defend them in the event of their violation.”

Dina Nachbaur, Managing Director WEISSER RING, dealt with the question “who we talk about when we talk about a victim of violence.” After all, also employees of victim support organisations can only talk about individuals who got in contact with them. As studies have shown, these are only a fraction of those who actually become victims of violence, since under-reporting is an issue. Surveys can only reach those who are willing and able to be questioned. Therefore, it must be assumed that the Falco quotation “We’re walking past and do not see it (Wir geh´n vorbei und seh´n es nicht)” holds true for many victims of crime.

To be able to ask for help, persons concerned must, first of all, perceive themselves as victims, and, secondly, be recognized as victims by their counterparts. In her talk, Dina Nachbaur concludes that unfortunately both scenarios are often not guaranteed. She is convinced: “We have by far not done enough in Austria, so that all victims of violence can properly claim their rights and receive the individual support they need.”

Justice for Victims of Violent Crimes” – The Study

Based on a survey of the legal and institutional situation in all 28 EU member states, a total of 231 individual interviews were conducted in seven member states in 2017. Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, the United Kingdom and Portugal participated in this second phase. Interviewees were staff members of victim support organisations, police officers, lawyers, prosecutors and judges as well as victims of violent crimes.

Active Participation in Criminal Proceedings

Victims of violent crimes generally would like to have more opportunities to actively participate in criminal proceedings. However, the connection between the legal situation and the factual situation of victims is complex. The expectation of potential participation influences the perception of the experience. In other words, in some countries with extensive procedural participation rights of victims of violence (Germany, Austria, Poland), victims are less satisfied with the actual situation than in countries where victims of violence have hardly any rights of participation during criminal proceedings (Netherlands, the United Kingdom).

Should the Role of Victims Be Strengthened?

Strengthening the role of victim-hood is perceived very differently by the participating countries,   especially the effect it would have on the balance of prosecution and defense. Most judges and state prosecutors in Germany and Austria expect that strengthening the role of victims would make proceedings more complex as it could jeopardize the existing balance between prosecution and defense. In Poland and Portugal, none of the judges and prosecutors interviewed agreed with this thesis.

How is the Work of Victim Support Organisations and the Police Perceived?

Austria scored a lot higher than the other six countries surveyed in their satisfaction ratings of the services provided by victim support organisations.

In contrast to that, the situation is reversed for the police. Victims doubt that the police take their cases and investigations seriously and very often do not feel that they are treated respectfully.

The full study can be viewed online

For more details about this study, please visit www.weisser-ring.at

The complete study (4 volumes) can be requested via www.fra.europa.eu

Panel Discussion

After the talks, a panel discussion was held by Albin Dearing (FRA), Siniša Jovanović (Landespolizeidirektion Wien; Police Headquarters of the Federal

More on: https://www.weisser-ring.at/2019/09/03/lassen-eu-staaten-opfer-von-gewalttaten-im-stich/