New Faces of Victimhood; Reflections on the Unjust Sides of Globalization

Rianne Letschert and Jan Van Dijk, New Faces of Victimhood, Springer, Global Justice Series, 2011

16 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2014

See all articles by Rianne Letschert

Rianne Letschert

Tilburg University - International Victimology Institute Tilburg (INTERVICT)

Date Written: June 4, 2014


In the UN Secretary-General’s report endorsing the findings of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change, six key security challenges are listed as the foremost challenges of the contemporary age. These are: economic and social threats, including poverty, infectious disease, and environmental degradation; interstate conflict; internal conflict, including civil war, genocide, and other large-scale atrocities; nuclear, radiological, chemical, and biological weapons; terrorism; and, last but not least, transnational organized crime. The panel concluded that now “threats are from non-State actors as well as States, and to human security as well as State security.” The newly coined umbrella concept of human security stresses the need of putting the interests of people rather than of states in the center of attention and it highlights the interrelationships between the threats to personal security such as by global crimes and other security risks such as those of extreme poverty or health. The individual human being is not only defined in terms of his or her vulnerabilities, but also as a person that should be empowered to fend for him or herself. A central feature of the debate on human security is the call for preventive or remedial action from the world community against all kinds of threats to the core of people’s lives (“responsibility to protect”).

According to the victims’ movement, criminal justice systems across the world should serve the interests of those directly harmed by crime besides or even before those of the state. From this perspective, key victim-centered functions of criminal justice are access to justice, information, recognition and reparation. Furthermore, victims are entitled to social support to be reinstored into their former life. Over the past twenty years the victims’ movement has had considerable impact on policy. On 15 November 2006, Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, for example, announced in her annual speech to Parliament: “My government will put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.” In the same year the Dutch Minister of Justice issued a white paper on the implementation of his victim policies called “Victims in the Center.”

A landmark for the global reform movement was the United Nations Declaration on the Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1985. In this document the rights and interests of victims of abuse of power were only marginally addressed. This omission was corrected by the subsequent Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law adopted in 2005 by the UN Commission on Human Rights. Together these two documents have set the global standard for the treatment of victims in national and emerging international criminal law. They could be seen as important operationalizations of the concept of human security in the domain of criminal justice. Improvements in procedural rights of crime victims are embedded in the legal traditions and structures of domestic criminal justice systems. Where domestic arrangements of criminal justice are replaced or supplemented by international criminal law, existing provisions for crime victims must be transferred to these new settings.

In the meantime, globalization is changing the landscape of both crime and criminal justice. Crime is rapidly being internationalized. The increasingly international nature of many forms of crime poses a major challenge to domestically oriented systems of criminal justice. Inadequate arrangements for judicial cooperation allow perpetrators of global crimes to escape prosecution. The failure to bring transnational perpetrators of crime to justice leaves victims of such crimes without legal recourse. If such crimes are brought before a court, rights of victims are logistically difficult to enforce. On the positive side, international criminal law is expanding and provisions for victims are no longer overlooked. The United Nations, for example, has instituted international funds for victims of torture and is currently discussing the creation of a fund for victims of terrorism, and the International Criminal Court has set up a Trust Fund for victims of international crimes. Numerous international NGOs struggle to offer relief and support for a broad range of crime victims such as those of human trafficking or victims of international crimes. In this book we will bring into focus these and other, often contradictory, implications of globalization for the protection and support provided to victims of crime across the world. The leading theme is the relationship between processes of globalization, emerging threats to human security and the development of new national and international arrangements to protect and empower actual victims.

Suggested Citation

Letschert, Rianne, New Faces of Victimhood; Reflections on the Unjust Sides of Globalization (June 4, 2014). Rianne Letschert and Jan Van Dijk, New Faces of Victimhood, Springer, Global Justice Series, 2011. Available at SSRN:

Rianne Letschert (Contact Author)

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

Tilburg, 5000 LE


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