Part 3 of the Cross-Cutting Issues' sector of the Criminal Justice Assessment Toolkit, produced by the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime in close co-operaiton with the Strategic Police Matters Unit of the OSCE Secretariat.
A fair, effective and efficient criminal justice system is a system that respects the fundamental rights of victims as well as those of suspects and offenders. It focuses on the need to prevent victimization, to protect and assist victims, and to treat them with compassion and respect for their dignity. Victims should also have access to judicial and other mechanisms to seek remedy for the harm they suffered and obtain prompt redress. They should also have access to specialized assistance in dealing with any emotional trauma and other problems caused by their victimization.
Crime takes an enormous physical, financial and emotional toll on victims. However, in many criminal justice systems, victims of crime are often forgotten and sometimes even re-victimized by the system itself. They are rarely allowed to fully participate in decisions that concern them and do not always receive the assistance, support and protection they need. Redress for the harm they suffered as a result of victimization is often not available and, when it is, it is too often insufficient or late in coming.
In November 1985, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (resolution 40/34, annex) in which it recommended measures that should be taken at the national, regional and international levels to improve access to justice and fair treatment, restitution, compensation, protection and assistance for victims of crime and abuse of power. In 1988, the Economic and Social Council recommended that Member States take the necessary steps to give effects to the provisions of the Declaration (resolution 1989/57). Finally, in 1998, the Economic and Social Council endorsed a Plan of Action for the Implementation of the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (resolution 1998/21, annex).
Other resolutions also provided guidance on how justice systems ought to deal with various specific groups of victims. In 1997, the General Assembly adopted resolution 52/86 dealing with the need to review criminal justice practices to better prevent violence against women and support and assist women victims of gender-based violence. The resolution includes an annex entitled Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The Model Strategies suggest a series of measures that can be taken in variety of areas to prevent violence against women and improve the law and processes for dealing with this widespread form of victimization.