Protecting and Empowering Victims of International Crimes through the Human Security Concept - A New Challenge for Victimologists?

19 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2010

See all articles by Rianne Letschert

Rianne Letschert

Tilburg University - International Victimology Institute Tilburg (INTERVICT)

Date Written: April 22, 2010


Victimology as an academic discipline has achieved a lot by bridging concepts stemming from different academic disciplines such as law, psychology, traumatology and criminology, and by studying how to develop adequate victim-centred legislation and policy as well as effective evidence-based psycho-social intervention programmes. What is often referred to as “mainstream” victimology has until recently mainly focused on victimization through so-called ordinary or conventional criminal acts. Important issues relating to what can be referred to as mass or collective victimization have received less focused attention.

Although human rights abuses are considered a central issue in Victimology, questions relating to victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide (the international crimes covered by the International Criminal Court) have for a long time remained to a large extent blind spots on the victimology map. Research on victims of crimes in and around war zones and areas of civil unrest have largely been left to other disciplines such as political studies, peace studies, international law and human rights law, history, international traumatology and journalism. And only recently have critical criminologists begun a systematic exploration of state crimes like genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

A crucial question that must be asked is whether existing theories and concepts developed within mainstream victimology are adequate to address issues pertaining to mass victimization resulting from such international crimes. This kind of victimization comes with its own problems. These stem from the very nature of these particular crimes, relating mainly to the magnitude which is often inherent to them. Enormous challenges lie in developing victimological approaches relating to the complexities of victimization by international crimes. This paper gives reflections into the subject of victimization through so-called international crimes or gross atrocities crimes, a generic term that covers the three categories of crimes just mentioned. In particular, it will explore whether victimological theories and concepts - some already in existence, but mostly in need of development to apply to international atrocity crimes - can be construed or enriched through insights offered by the concept of human security. This concept has been launched 15 years ago as an answer to a wide range of current threats to human life.

Keywords: International Crimes, Victims, Human Security

Suggested Citation

Letschert, Rianne, Protecting and Empowering Victims of International Crimes through the Human Security Concept - A New Challenge for Victimologists? (April 22, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Rianne Letschert (Contact Author)

Tilburg University - International Victimology Institute Tilburg (INTERVICT) ( email )

Tilburg, 5000 LE


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