‘Legal Capacities in Access to Justice for Victims of Terrorism’ held in Geneva

September 21, 2019

GENEVA - Media section of the Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism reported on Tuesday that the “Legal Capacities in Access to Justice for Victims of Terrorism” was held as a side event of the 42nd session HRC of the UN in Geneva. The side event was held by the Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism in cooperation with the Comisión Juridica para el Autodesarrollo de los Pueblos Originarios Andinos (CAPAJ), Geneva Academy and Iraqi Alliance of Disability and experts from Iran, the U.S., Hawaii, Maldives, Germany, Argentine in which some families of the victims of terror in Iran discussed the solutions in access to justice for victims of terrorism.

Eduardo Toledo, a legal advisor to Nurnberg Institute said after the Nurnberg Court, international law identified that persons can be part of the context, but it was not the case before that. “Before the court, international law was about states and international organizations. After the Nurnberg Court we understand that persons can be a part of the context of crime. After the Second World War, we created the international personality and these capacities are important for victims of terrorism. In the international criminal law, the problem was that at the beginning the victims were not recognized in the crimes. In Nurnberg the victims were not part of the trials. In the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda it was the same. But in the tradition of common law, victims can only participate as witnesses. In 1998, we had a revolution in the International Criminal Court and the victims started to have roles. Unfortunately, the International Criminal Court doesn’t have procedures for terrorism but victims can go there for other crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, but they cannot go there and ask for justice for the crime of terrorism. The court that recognized terrorism as a crime was Lebanon.”

H.E. Leon K. Siu, a Hawaiian political activist, stated that very rarely can the justice system undo the actual harm suffered by victims of any crime, but especially crimes suffered by victims of terrorism. “The issue of legal capacities is very important. Justice in this case is not to only bring the offender to justice, but the mechanism should be corrected. The worst thing for providing access to justice for the victims is not the fact that you cannot correct the mechanism, but it is the lack of response from states, organizations, and the international community about the effects on victims of terrorism.”

He continued “the very nature of terrorism, committing crimes against innocent civilians — is so heinous that bringing perpetrators to justice falls far short of the very concept of justice.”

Ms. Maryam Shaheeda Mohamed, director of the Geneva Academy for Peace and Mediation, pointed to Ms. Bachelet’s remarks at the opening of the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council and said “I want to talk about the rights of the civilians in conflicts. The Geneva Conventions are the principles which should be implemented in all communities. As the ICRC president has said, ‘Do not target civilians, do not rape, torture or execute, do not target hospitals or schools, do not use illegal weapons, do not threaten, kidnap or kill those who help’. These are principles which resound with all of us. But, unfortunately, what we see in conflicts today is that they are being deliberately violated by an incresing number of states, as well as by numerous non-state actors.”

She added that the main reason of violent extremism is due to poverty and lack of education. “Therefore, to end this, it can be proposed to provide aid and educational assistance to these countries and address SDGs. Worldwide, more than 2,000 people are killed as a consequence of armed violence daily.”

“Human rights reflect the minimum standards necessary for people to live with dignity and equality. Under human rights treaties, governments have the primary responsibility to protect and promote human rights,” she continued.

“According to the ranking of the most peaceful countries, the most peaceful countries are not necessarily the least religious. The least peaceful countries are not necessarily highly religious. The countries that had higher membership of religious groups tended to be slightly more peaceful.”

“The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy directly addresses the issue of victims of terrorist acts in the preamble and under Pillar I, Pillar II and Pillar IV. The European Union (EU) has adopted several instruments regarding victims of terrorism,” she concluded.

Curtis Doebbler, an American international lawyer, emphasized that terrorism is not a new issue and “I have done so much in this field. I was a member of a working group a few years ago. When we analysed the international and national instruments, we understood that there are 15 thousand definitions of terrorism. It means that there is no clear definition of terrorism in international law. Criminal law has always been in the sovereign states' domain. As our discussion focuses on the victims of terrorism, so we can talk about the victims of violation of human rights. In international law, we mostly blame the states as the responsible of their acts. The ICC covers compensation for victims of different crimes and some of them which have common elements with some definition of terrorism, are also covered.”

Mr. Thoreau Redcrow, a global conflict analyst, stated that “when we talk about terrorism, it is a complicated problem because there is no clear definition of terrorism. For example, there are different kinds of state terrorism. You can consider any act which causes horror as terrorism. Sometimes those who you believe are terrorists, are freedom fighters for others. Different states designate some groups as terrorists and remove others according to their political issues at a time. For example, the U.S. and the EU are among them. When they feel that they can use a group for their proxy interests, they omit it. For instance, the U.S. removed the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the terrorist list, while they did not provide any explanation about it.”

He concluded that from a legal perspective, the ICC, the UN, and some other states can create a mechanism about how to recognize terrorist groups. “When it is up to the states, the situation is different because they have different points of view about who is terrorist and who is not.”

Mansoureh Karami, widow of martyr Alimohammadi, said, “As a victim of terrorism, I ask the human rights organizations and NGOs to pay attention to the rights of 17,000 victims of terror in my country. Why a terrorist group that has killed more than 12,000 citizens of my country is delisted from the terrorist group and is active in Europe and the U.S. and does its anti-human activities. This is the right of victims of terrorism to know that why these terrorists are free in those countries. Officials in those countries should be responsible.”

Zohre Haqpanahi, widow of martyr Mohammad Tavassoli, said, “We, the victims of terrorism, want justice and as representative of the victims’ families want an efficient legal framework in access of the victims of terrorism to justice.” She also asked the establishment for a fund for the support of victims of terrorism and juridical cooperation in extraditing and indicting the culprits and establishment of rehabilitation centers for victims.

The last speaker was Seyed Mohammad Ali Paknejad, son of martyr Reza Paknejad. He said failing to notice a crime in a part of the world, while in the other parts many parties are against that crime is neglecting the universal justice. “One of the best and effective ways in punishing, especially in the case of persons who have paved the way for criminals, is expressing regret. On the other side, states that help terrorists are accomplice. So, if terrorists know that after their crime they will not be responsible in other countries, they will have more incentive to do crimes.”

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