Spain leading U.N. push to strengthen rights of terror victims

April 25, 2013 at 12:02 AM   |   0 comments

VIENNA, April 25 (UPI) -- Spain this week was leading an international charge to enhance the rights of victims of terrorism at a U.N. criminal justice conference in Vienna.

The Spanish delegation at the United Nations' 22nd Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice co-sponsored a resolution urging member nations to improve court systems so they are fairer and more sensitive to the needs of victims of terrorism and their families.

Luis Aguilera, Spain's undersecretary of home affairs, and Sonia Ramos, its director general for support to the victims of terrorism, joined colleagues from Italy, Hungary and Austria to shepherd the effort at the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime meeting.

The draft General Assembly resolution seeks to commit the world's countries to allow victims to participate in criminal trials of accused terrorists and to establish systems of financial compensation for the victims.

The push is coming after years of criticism that the rights of victims were being ignored by the international legal system while those of accused terrorists were being protected.

Meanwhile, few countries, including the United States, outside of Western Europe have legal measures to financially compensate victims.

Aguilera said Spain's recent legal and civil reforms can serve as a model for an international agreement.

"Spain unfortunately shares with other member states the suffering that stems from the devastating effects of terrorism," he said.

"This has enabled the development of an integrated system of reparation for the victims of terrorism that has been complemented by measures aimed at avoiding secondary victimization in criminal proceedings and recognition of the memory and role played by the victims in civil society."

The Spanish law offers terrorism victims civil liability payments, regardless of whether a perpetrator is convicted, as well as individualized comprehensive care, including educational assistance and psychological counseling.

A victims' center has also been created within the Spanish Prosecutor's Office, equipped with enough personnel and financial resources to provide personalized contact with direct and indirect victims of terrorist acts, offering legal support for victims who are confused about trials or are afraid to appear.

Aguilera said the resolution builds on a report delivered to the General Assembly last year by Ben Emmerson, special rapporteur of the U.N. Human Rights Council, outlining a proposed regulatory framework for compensation, assistance, support and recognition of terrorism victims.

The British human rights lawyer developed the framework after a four-year campaign for victims rights by the family Will Pike, a 31-year-old Briton disabled in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, who was left without funds to cope with his injuries, The Observer reported.

Ramos said in an address to the human rights council last year Spain is keenly interested in protecting terror victims' rights in part because of the "painful and tragically unforgettable" 1987 bombing of the Hipercor shopping center in Barcelona.

That attack, carried out by the Basque separatist group ETA, killed 21 people and wounded 45.

The episode led to the realization in Spain that "victims of terrorism are victims of human rights violations," she said.

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