News / Middle East

UN Expert Calls for Compensation for Victims of Terrorism

Afghan men stand over the bodies of a suicide bomb blast victims at a hospital in Khost province, June 20, 2012.
Afghan men stand over the bodies of a suicide bomb blast victims at a hospital in Khost province, June 20, 2012.
Lisa Schlein
GENEVA - The Special U.N. Investigator on Terrorism is calling for an international legally binding instrument to provide compensation, reparation, and support to all victims of terrorism. The investigator says terrorists cannot compensate for the massive damage they cause, so it is up to world governments to right a wrong and pay up.
 
Since Saturday, Special U.N. Investigator on Terrorism Ben Emmerson reports 125 people have been killed and 334 have been seriously wounded in 14 terrorist attacks around the world, including Pakistan, Iraq, northern Nigeria, and Yemen.

He says to most of the world, these deaths are just statistics and very little, or nothing at all, is known about the human tragedies that lie behind them.
 
Despite the brutal physical and psychological consequences of terrorist attacks on the victims and their families, he says little is being done to compensate them. He says this is unjust and must not continue.

Emmerson says he has received wide support from organizations representing victims of terrorism around the world for his proposals to compensate the victims for their loss and suffering.
 
He says none of these people are calling for revenge. They are calling for justice. He says they are not calling for more torture or for more human-rights abuse in countering terrorism.    

“The victims are saying that is not being done in their name, do not use their names as a justification," said Emmerson. "What they are asking for is a normative framework.  And, the aim of this report is to nail the lie that the way to protect victims is to abuse the human rights of those suspected of involvement in terrorism. That is not what they are calling for.  It is quite the reverse of what they are calling for. And, it is a strange world where government officials are prepared to stand up and say we are torturing on behalf of the victims, but we are not prepared to pay them compensation.” 

Emmerson says the Council of Europe, as well as many countries and non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International, support his efforts to secure the human rights of victims of terrorism.
 
A report Emmerson presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council says countries should conduct their own counter-terrorism operations consistent with international human-rights law.  

But the counter-terrorism investigator says Syria overlooked this statement and cited selectively from the report to justify its military actions against those it identifies as terrorists operating within its territory.

“I reminded Syria that there was no warrant for the misuse of the victims of terrorism and their human rights as a justification for widespread and systematic violation of the rights of civilians and non-combatants as a response," he said. "I invited States, in the course of my presentation, to recognize that all acts of terrorism amount to serious and gross human-rights violations.”  

The U.N. anti-terrorism chief says victims of terrorism are unwilling collateral damage and nations need to do the right thing for them. He says they are victims of gross human-rights violations and the international community should stand behind them.

Emmerson says it is important governments voluntarily accept a new international obligation to compensate all victims of terrorism, regardless of who is behind these crimes. He says a number of countries already are doing this, including the United States, which voluntarily established funds to ensure compensation for victims of 9/11.

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