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National Crime Victim Law Institute

This Month in Rights: Victims’ Rights are Human Rights

September 23, 2011

Victims’ rights are human rights.

Human rights are those basic rights and freedoms to which all people are entitled.  Common sense tells us that victims of stalking deserve to be protected; co-victims of homicide are entitled to an opportunity to speak about the impact of the crime; child-victims should have their privacy protected; and all victims deserve to be treated with dignity, fairness, and respect throughout the criminal justice process.  

Every time we endeavor to protect, enforce, or advance victims’ rights we are ensuring that victims are afforded basic human rights. 

A guiding human rights instrument, the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (which was adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1985), outlines the international consensus on standards of practice in relation to crime victims.  The cornerstone of the Basic Principles and of human rights standards generally is a call for victims to have meaningful rights in the criminal justice process. 

In 2008, Human Rights Watch, an independent organization whose mission is to protect human rights by conducting investigations that bring international attention to human rights violations, published an analysis of United States victims’ rights laws in comparison to international human rights standards.  The resulting comparison of US laws and the Basic Principles standards found that while great strides have been made in our country, there is still work to be done to ensure that victims of crime have meaningful rights that the justice system recognizes.  The report calls on all United States jurisdictions to use the Basic Principles as a standard to guide law development and policy change in regard to the rights of victims of crime.

At NCVLI’s annual Crime Victim Law Conference this past June, Dr. Irvin Waller, an international expert on victims’ rights who helped develop the Basic Principles, spoke to attendees about using a human rights lens to better analyze victim needs and develop strategies for advancing rights of crime victims around the world.      

With your help NCVLI is fighting every day for a justice system that is based on human rights and which thereby ensures access to justice for all, including victims of crime, while respecting the rights of all parties involved.

Read the UN’s Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power by clicking here.

Read Human Rights Watch’s report on the state of crime victims’ rights in the U.S. by clicking here


© 2011 National Crime Victim Law Institute