The Victims' Rights Directive lays down a set of binding rights for victims of crime, and clear obligations for EU Member States to ensure these rights in practice (IP/12/1066).
The rules apply to all people, regardless of their nationality, who fall victim to crime in the EU. They also apply if the criminal proceedings take place in the EU.
EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová said: “Every year across the EU, an estimated 1 in 7 people fall victim to crime. From today, new rules give victims clear rights to information, protection, and access to support services in all Member States. The new rules will improve how people are treated when they suffer from crime. Victims deserve to be duly protected throughout criminal proceedings. However, not all Member States have informed the Commission that they have transposed the Directive. I call on the remaining Member States to ensure these important rules are implemented as soon as possible, so that victims and their families can benefit from them in practice.”
The objective of the new rules is that all victims of crime and their family members are recognised and treated in a respectful and non-discriminatory manner based on an individual approach tailored to the victim's needs.
The key new rights include:
- Rights of victims’ family members – Family members of deceased victims will enjoy the same rights as direct victims, including the right to information, support and compensation. Family members of surviving victims also have the right to support and protection.
- Right to understand and to be understood - All communication with victims must be given in a simple and accessible language. The form of communication must be adapted to the specific needs of every victim, including for example needs related to age, language or any disability.
- Right to information - The national authorities must give victims a range of information concerning their rights, their case and the services and assistance available to them. The information must be given from the first contact by a competent authority and without delay.
- Right to support- Member States must guarantee that victims have access to support services and the authorities must facilitate the referral to such services. Support must be free of charge and confidential and available also to victims who do not officially report the crime. Both general support services – which are open to all victims of crime – and specialist support services must be available. Specialist support includes shelters, trauma support and counselling adapted to different types of victims.
- Right to participate in criminal proceedings - Victims will get a more active role in criminal proceedings. They will have the right to be heard and be informed about the different steps of the proceedings. If victims do not agree with the decision not to prosecute, they have the right to challenge the decision. Victims also have the right to compensation and if restorative justice proceedings are used in the national system, there are now rules that ensure the safe participation of victims.
- Rights to protection - Victims must be protected from the offender and throughout the criminal proceedings. In order to determine their protection needs, all victims must receive an individual assessment to see whether they are vulnerable to further harm that may arise during the criminal proceedings. If so, special protection measures must be put in place to protect them during the proceedings and against any possible threat from the offender. Special attention is given to the protection of children.
These EU rules must now be implemented and applied by all Member States. Moreover, as many of the rights set up in the Directive are clear and precise, it is possible for individuals to invoke them directly before the national courts, even if their Member State has not yet fully implemented into national law.
The Commission is monitoring implementation into national law, and assisting Member States in this process, in particular by organising bilateral and regional meetings and participating in other fora for experts in the field. The Commission will cooperate closely with the upcoming Dutch Presidency and with civil society.
If Member States fail to fulfill their obligations, the European Commission will not hesitate to take legal steps to enforce compliance with the rules.
In September 2012, the European Parliament backed the proposed laws (MEMO/12/659), followed by adoption by the Council of the EU in October 2012 (see IP/12/1066). This came after the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers reached an agreement in June following intense negotiations mediated by the European Commission.
Following publication of the directive in the EU's Official Journal, Member States had three years to implement the provisions into their national laws.
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