C. Actions during the criminal justice process
Good Practice 9: Protect victims in counterterrorism investigations and criminal proceedings.
Victims are essential in the investigation and prosecution of acts of terrorism. Victims often serve as important witnesses in investigations and trials. Their ability to participate without fear of intimidation or reprisal is essential to maintaining the rule of law. Legal procedures and practical measures should be in place to protect them. For further guidance, please see The Rabat Memorandum on Good Practices for Effective Counterterrorism Practice in the Criminal Justice Sector; Criminal Justice Sector/Rule of Law Working Group, GCTF, Good Practice 1 at pp. 3–5.
Victims of terrorism should be protected from threat, intimidation, and retaliation, and should receive appropriate support to facilitate their recovery through the whole criminal proceeding. In addition to protecting victims’ physical security, victim professionals should strive to prevent emotional harm to victims during criminal justice proceedings, particularly when victims testify. In such situations a good practice is for victim professionals to be present in court during victims’ testimony, a moment of particular vulnerability.
Good Practice 10: Coordinate assistance to victims.
All of the principal government institutions that interact with terrorism victims, as well as victims’ associations and other relevant NGOs and victims` lawyers, should coordinate to provide victims with seamless services and accurate, timely information. Thus law enforcement, courts, prosecutors, forensic physicians and investigators, corrections officials, victim assistance professionals, and others should communicate with each other and define each institution’s function in connection with victim assistance. During judicial proceedings, coordination and collaboration among those assisting victims is especially important and can include NGOs as well. Those with information about hearings and other significant case events should provide that information to the victim assistance professionals with as much notice as possible so the latter can make sure victims are kept informed through an official point of contact (preferably a single one).
Good Practice 11: Provide victims with access to justice, including legal aid at no cost, as well as information, as appropriate, about the criminal justice process and the case.
Victim assistance professionals, including victims` lawyers, can provide an important service to victims by giving them general information about the criminal justice process and specific information about the particular case. This could include the status of the investigation (to the extent it is appropriate and does not interfere in the investigation) and notice of the public court proceedings in the case. The victim assistance professionals should provide information in plain language and try to make legal language more comprehensible for people unfamiliar with criminal justice proceedings. Interpretation services and legal counsel also should be provided. Legal aid should be provided free of cost where the interests of justice requires it. Provision may be made for representation of victims by one legal counsel or team of counsel. General information about the criminal justice system can include an overview of the process, phases of the proceedings, and time frames for significant decisions. Information about the status of the investigation can include the arrest of alleged perpetrators and the filing of charges. When court hearings are scheduled the court should provide as much advance notice as possible so that the victims are informed about the hearings, allowing them to prepare them and take relevant contacts with the victim assistance professionals.
Good Practice 12: Provide victims, when appropriate and in accordance with the relevant national law, with the opportunity to meet directly with the lawyers prosecuting the case.
Meetings between victims, investigators, and prosecutors can help alleviate victims’ feelings of helplessness and encourage trust in the system through transparency. Victims can ask questions so that they can have realistic expectations of the judicial process. Lawyers should strive to provide information in layman’s terms wherever possible.
Good Practice 13: Provide victims with the opportunity to attend court proceedings and, as appropriate, to be accompanied by a victim services professional.
Victim assistance professionals should keep victims informed about the scheduling of public court proceedings that the victims are permitted to attend. This information should make clear that attending proceedings is voluntary (unless there is a legal obligation), and assure victims that regardless of whether they attend, they will continue to receive information about case proceedings in accordance with national legislation.
As part of comprehensive services for victims of terrorism, victim assistance professionals can draft a procedure for court preparation and accompaniment, and should offer victims this service. The goal of court preparation and accompaniment is to minimize the victims’ feelings of being overwhelmed by the situation and to encourage trust in the proceedings and in judicial institutions.
Victim assistance professionals should contact victims in advance of proceedings and provide detailed information, including when and where the proceedings will be held, descriptions of the type of proceeding, the composition of the court, presence of the accused, and other logistical facts. This information should be provided in clear, simple language. It is a good practice to tell victims they can invite support persons such as family members and friends to accompany them to court.
Appropriately trained victim assistance professionals can accompany victims to court or be present in the courtroom or outside to provide any needed emotional support and to answer questions. Recognized aspects of emotional support include empathy, assertiveness, active listening, and respect for silence. Victims should be provided with waiting areas and court seating separate from the accused and the family and friends of the accused to prevent possible harassment. If potentially disturbing evidence such as violent photographs will be introduced in court, victims should be warned so they can choose to view the evidence or leave the courtroom prior to the evidence being shown. Appropriate court accompaniment can promote healing and help victims find a sense of justice in the aftermath of the crime.
Good Practice 14: Enable participation by victims at appropriate stages of criminal proceedings. Consistent with national law, States should provide victims with opportunities to have their views heard and considered by the court.5 Victim participation in proceedings is beneficial at other points in the process as well. Including victim views in the process can lead to more confidence in the judicial system on the part of victims and the public.
Good Practice 15: Prevent secondary and repeat victimization within the criminal justice process by providing sensitivity training to judges and other participants in the criminal justice system.
Sensitivity training should be promoted for members of different professional categories when they are likely to come into contact with victims, for example: police officers, immigration officials, NGOs members, public prosecutors, lawyers, members of the judiciary, and court officials. Such training about victim issues can enable victims to establish trust in authorities. Victim assistance professionals may provide such training. It is a good practice for peers to train peers. Thus judges and other participants in the criminal justice system trained in dealing with victims can be effective trainers to their peers. Judges in particular should receive training on questioning traumatized and frightened victims so that the questioning does not further traumatize the witness.
Good Practice 16: Provide victims timely, accurate, and complete information about rulings, verdicts, appeals, and the availability of compensation programs.
The courts and victim assistance professionals should communicate and coordinate to ensure that victims receive timely, accurate, and complete information about any rulings, verdicts, and appeals. Victim assistance professionals including victims` lawyers should be prepared to inform victims of any entitlements resulting from the final sentence and, to the extent possible, facilitate the processing of any claims for possible compensation.
Good Practice 17: Provide victims with appropriate information when no court hearings are held.
In some cases there may be no public hearing concerning a crime because no perpetrators are identified or apprehended, or because of a plea bargain or other judicial procedure that negates the need for a public trial. In such situations, States are encouraged to provide victims and victims’ families with appropriate information about the crime, the perpetrators, and the victim’s fate if the victim has not been found. Appropriate information can include the results of the State’s investigation and the reason why no public court proceedings will be held.
4 In another context, states have recognized the importance of protecting crime victims from experiencing additional victimization. See Trafficking in Persons Protocol, art. 9.1(b) (“State Parties shall establish comprehensive policies, programmes and other measures … [t]o protect victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, from revictimization.”) 5 In other contexts, states have recognized the importance of supporting victim participation in criminal proceedings. United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, art. 25.3 (“Each State Party shall, subject to its domestic law, enable views and concerns of victims to be presented and considered in appropriate stages of criminal proceedings against offenders in a manner not prejudicial to the rights of the defence.”); accord Trafficking in Persons Protocol, art. 6.2(b).