Increasing the Participation of Victims in Criminal Proceedings

 Two flags representing the Specialized Criminal Chambers in Tunisia. Two flags representing the Specialized Criminal Chambers in Tunisia. © International Commission of Jurists

18 October, 2018

The report, The Role of Victims in Criminal Proceedings, provides extensive information regarding the active participation of victims through the aid of the Specialized Criminal Chambers (SCCs) which has been put in place for the adjudication of cases involving human rights violations.

In the report, The Role of Victims in Criminal Proceedings, the main focus lies in protecting the rights of the victim as much as the defendant. Rather than simply providing the victim protection, the process of criminal justice proceedings and the provision of reparations also play a restorative role for victims while potentially leading to more successful convictions. The benefits of allowing the victim to participate as a civil party, rather than exclusively as a witness, include their initiation of prosecutions, ability to claim reparations for trauma related to their case, and the direct involvement in proceedings that may lead to a more effective trial.

In order to gain each of these rights of participation, certain victims are selected based upon the contents within their applications. A judge must decide whether the individual is a victim based on two factors: whether there was physical, mental, or emotional harm caused to them personally, and whether that harm was linked directly to the crime committed. This can include harm directly done to them, harm done to a close relative, or whether they were harmed while attempting to prevent the crime from occuring. Once a victim is granted the opportunity to participate, some activities they are permitted to participate in include: presenting and requesting evidence, calling expert witnesses, challenging and appealing court’s decisions, and presenting their views on the charges being brought against the defendant.

The report details specific locations that have taken the initiative in allowing victims to achieve more privileges in court. The International Criminal Court set the precedent for other courts to allow victims have more participation opportunities during proceedings pertaining to their case. For example, the Extraordinary Courts in the Chambers of Cambodia was the first court to allow victims to take on the role of civil parties during trials. This role allows the victims to directly support the prosecution during proceedings and the opportunity to gain moral and collective reparations. The Kosovo Special Chambers and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon have also created statues that expand on the protection of the victims and their rights to participate in proceedings. Examples of these protective and participatory rights include: the creation of a unit within the Registry responsible for protection and participation assistance of the victims, the right to be notified, acknowledge, and reparated, and the right to be represented in the pretrial and trial proceedings if it is not prejudicial to the rights of the accused. These statues emphasis the victim’s rights to be treated with dignity and respect, an effective remedy and fair trial, protection and assistance, reparation, and truth.

The participation of victims during trials can directly result in more successful convictions as well as allowing the victims to achieve reparations and emotional restoration for the harm caused to them during the crime.  


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