The position of the terrorism victim

Terrorism victims are victims of a crime the same way as any other crime victims. The special feature is that the act is done for political motives and usually the main motive is to harm the state and cause instability. A lot of people may be victims of an attack They are usually the victims by accident. These kind of strikes have been the ones that happened in recent years in airports, underground stations, at public events or when a a large vehicle has been driven into a crowd with devastating results.

International co-operation is the key to preventing terrorism. A so-called Terrorism Directive concerning terrorism crimes was approved in the EU in Spring 2017. The member states were made to make the following into a punishable crime: Receiving training linked to terrorism, travelling for the purpose of terrorism and funding terrorism. There are new regulations set, for example, on investigative methods and on the passage of information between member states. The Directive also involves special mandates about helping the victims of terrorism and victims’ rights.

The rights of the victims defined by the directive are mostly the same as in the EU Crime Victim Directive rights, but they go further on some points. These rights apply for the most part already in Finland. This Directive demands a special alert system to be set up, so the help for the victims and their family members would arrive immediately after the attack. The Directive should be put into effect nationally in Autumn 2018.

Who is a terrorism victim?

The definition of a terrorism victim has been talked about a lot. The immediate victims are the ones directly affected by the attack, the ones who died or were injured and their family members. In a broader sense, the ones who were close to the attack and who were meant to be the targets but survived the physical impact of the attack, can also be seen as victims. It is important to take into account the effect on the broader family and friend circles.

The indirect victims of an attack are not crime victims as stated in criminal law, but most of them probably will be needing help coping with the traumatic situation. The ones present on the scene might be called as witnesses to court, and this arouses questions and fear.

The local community and the larger society can be in the midst of suffering from a terrorist attack. This should be noted in political decisions and in support actions.

As a victim abroad

There are usually foreigners among the terrorist attack victims. They might be there temporarily, for example, as tourists, or living permanently in the country. If the victim returns to their own country, there will be officials and helpers from different countries to help with the victim’s affairs. The victims and their loved ones usually need special support in filing for damages, taking part in the possible trial and all in all in getting information from the authorities of the country where the attack took place.  The language and cultural differences and the differences in judicial systems make the handling of the affairs more difficult.

There are instructions in the EU Crime Victim Directives and Terrorism Directives about the position of the victim in cross-border cases within the Union. The starting point is that the victim must get help and the victim’s legal protection must be assured no matter which EU country the crime happened in. The directives don’t cover situations when the terrorist attack happens outside of the European Union.

Victim Support Finland serves the crime victims residing in Finland that were victims of a crime abroad or foreign crime victims that were victims of a crime in Finland. We will use language interpreters when needed. We also work in co-operation with other European crime victim organisations via our co-operation organisation Victim Support Europe (VSE).