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Reducing victimization, in terms of preventing crime and strengthening the criminal justice response for victims of crime, is a crucial goal for all criminal justice systems worldwide and is a prerequisite for combating international, transnational and domestic crimes.
ICCLR’s work on reducing victimization seeks to identify the victims’ needs and the impact of victimization from an analysis of different types of crime, such as terrorism, environmental crime, and violence against women. ICCLR’s work also discusses how the criminal justice system responds to victimization, outlines strategies to reduce re-victimization by the criminal justice process, and promotes the strengthening of victim’s rights. Preventive strategies are also incorporated into various ICCLR programs of work.
Effective and responsive strategies can prevent crime and victimization as well as promote community safety and contribute to the security and quality of people’s lives. Two sets of crime prevention guidelines have been adopted by the Economic and Social Council: the 1995 UN Guidelines for Cooperation and Technical Assistance in the Field of Urban Crime Prevention and the 2002 UN Guidelines for the Prevention of Crime.
Reducing crime victimization
Governments have an obligation to provide safe and secure communities; however, the reality is that no matter how effective crime prevention strategies are, crimes and victims of crimes will always exist. Providing assistance for victim recovery is therefore crucial, as is ensuring effective access to justice. Victims are entitled to access the mechanisms of justice and to prompt redress for the harm that they have suffered.
In 1985, the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and is seen as the cornerstone for recognizing the needs and interests of victims. To reduce the impact of crime and criminal justice on victims and their families, the Declaration proposes provisions to better inform victims, ensure reparations, and provide services to assist in their recovery, particularly from emotional trauma and other problems caused as a result of victimization.
Reducing re-victimization by the criminal justice system
It is recognized that the criminal justice process itself may cause further hardship to victims. A number of international norms and standards, including the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power propose a wide range of provisions to ensure that victims are fairly treated in the criminal justice processes. These norms focus on the need to treat all victims with compassion and respect for their dignity.
Particular groups of victims considered vulnerable or subject to marginalization have been the focus of the international community. The UN Guidelines on Justice in Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime were developed to ensure that child victims and witnesses of crime are given the right to have their best interests given primary consideration, while safeguarding the rights of an accused or convicted person. The Updated Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention contain provisions to facilitate the participation of female victims of violence in the criminal justice process.
Promoting the rule of law, democracy, human rights and good governance in criminal law and the administration of criminal justice underlines ICCLR’s work on reducing victimization. Such work is also in line with current Canadian priorities including efforts to emphasize the rights of victims, to ensure safe and secure communities, to actively promote protection of children and women and to enhance effective and fair justice systems.
We have provided and will continue to provide expert assistance, analysis and advice to governments, criminal justice actors and institutions. We conduct action-oriented research and policy analysis; conduct comparative analyses of various aspects of criminal justice systems in order to identify best practices and create a sound basis for criminal justice reform; develop practical tools, such as handbooks, manuals and training materials; develop and deliver technical assistance programs; and conduct program evaluations. We work with policy makers, criminal justice agencies and civil society organizations at the local, national and international levels.
Examples of ICCLR’s work:
• ICCLR undertakes research initiatives to advance the discussion in a number of thematic areas, including mental health in the criminal justice system, fraud and corruption prevention in local government, environmental crime and independent oversight mechanisms in policing. Our paper on Improving Responses for Persons with Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System addresses the link between serious mental illness and criminality and examines some of the most effective strategies with respect to mentally ill offenders. We have also recently published a paper on Effects, Issues and Challenges for Victims of Crime that have a Significant Impact on the Environment which maps out the complexity of victimization of environmental crime victims – in terms of time, space, impact and who or what is victimized – to advance discussion for governments and the enforcement community to find effective responses.
• ICCLR conducts comparative analysis of various aspects of criminal justice systems in order to identify best practices and create a sound basis for criminal justice reform. An example is ICCLR’s paper onMunicipal ‘Best Practices’: Preventing Fraud, Bribery and Corruption with the aim of developing best practice tools to be made available to local governments to help fortify municipal institutions and processes against unlawful conduct.
• ICCLR develops practical tools for criminal justice agencies. For example, our manual,Responding to Victims of Identity Crime: A Manual for Law Enforcement Agents, Prosecutors and Policy Makers provides practical steps for criminal justice professionals who deal with victims of identity crime. ICCLR has also developed guidelines and prosecutor training to protect child victims of crime.
• ICCLR assists the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in the development of international norms and standards and tools to ensure effective implementation. For example, ICCLR played the lead research role in working on the Updated Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Another example is ICCLR’s role in the development of the UNODC Handbook on the Prevention of Recidivism and the Social Reintegration of Offenders.
• ICCLR acts as a catalyst and facilitator bringing together expertise to discuss a variety of thematic topics. For example, ICCLR’s organization of national and international consultations on the best practices in the prevention of human trafficking to assist Canada and other governments prevent vulnerable populations from being victimized by human traffickers and help protect known victims. For further information on ICCLR’s role in this field, please see ICCLR’s final report, Towards Human Trafficking Prevention: National and International Expert Group Meetings Final Report.