Victims’ Rights in Europe: Validity supports the call for revision of the EU Victims’ Rights Directive
Victims with disabilities face almost insurmountable barriers blocking their access to criminal justice in Europe. They are denied their right to be heard, to tell their story, to give evidence, to seek effective remedies, to understand their rights and the proceedings:
“…throughout the whole pre-trial phase the victim was neither interviewed, not even as a witness, nor he was personally informed about any rights…” (District Judge quoted in Victims of Crime with disabilities in Bulgaria,)
”…a little girl sexually abused within her family [was] treated completely inappropriately by the criminal prosecution bodies, ex-officio lawyer, case manager…”. A lawyer in Romania described how the 12 year-old girl was not prepared for a gynaecological examination, and the parent was informed the child could be put in foster care if a complaint was made and was asked to draw male sexual organs in the presence of other adults. (Quote from Report on Existing Judicial Practices in Romania).
The European Union’s Victims’ Rights Directive sets out the rights that victims have in terms of information, communication, participation and protection to create a more victim-centric justice system. While the Directive establishes some important minimum standards, research conducted by Validity and its partners in nine countries through the Voices for Justice and Child-Friendly Justice projects has shown that the rights of victims with disabilities, children and adults, are routinely violated. Some of these violations are because of lack of implementation of the Directive at the national level. However, there is also an urgent need for revisions to the Victims’ Rights Directive itself to better uphold the rights of persons with disabilities. This includes a process for identifying and removing barriers in the criminal justice system itself, andensuring the provision of reasonable and procedural accommodations. These accommodations must be gender, disability and age appropriate.
Validity joins with 59 other organisation to support Victim Support Europe’s call:
“We call on every person to stand as one for victims and to support the publication of the revised Victims’ Rights Directive to ensure that no victim is forgotten or remains voiceless.”
Validity has been working to highlight the need for a revised Victims’ Rights Directive to more strongly align with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. More specifically, the revised Directive must:
- recognise the universal legal capacity of persons with disabilities throughout all stages of criminal investigation and proceedings;
- guarantee the provision of gender, disability and age-appropriate procedural accommodations to ensure that adults and children with disabilities can participate effectively in all stages of the justice system; and
- ensure cross-disciplinary individual assessment for all victims to enable them to exercise their rights. Such assessments should be targeted to ensure that any support and accommodations required to ensure effective participation in the justice system are put in place, and prevent re-victimisation.
“Although the individual needs assessment could and should be used to assess the needs of victims, it is not recognised as a tool serving a better inclusion of persons with disabilities in the criminal procedures. Furthermore, it mostly focuses on determining the required protection measures to prevent additional intimidation and secondary victimisation during the procedure, but not on ensuring the right to information and effective communication.” (Victims of Crime with Disabilities in Croatia, Voices for Justice)