Victims rights are human rights

Document Type


Publication details

Garkawe, SB 2005, 'Victims rights are human rights', paper presented to Peaceful coexistence: victims rights in a human rights framework; National Forum on the 20th Anniversary of the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime & Abuse of Power, Canberra, ACT, 16 November.


Presentation to the 20th anniversary celebration of the 1985 UN Victims Declaration, held in Canberra on 16 November 2005. INTRODUCTION I first would like to thank the joint organisers of this Conference, the ACT Victims of Crime Coordinator and the ACT Human Rights Office, for inviting me to this Conference that brings together the disciplines of human rights and what is known as victimology, the study of victims. I have always been interested in and have taught both these subjects for quite some time now. At first glance one would think there is much common ground between the disciplines. Victimology has as its main focus and concern the social, psychological, financial and physical well being of victims, including victims of criminal acts and abuses of power.1 While human rights tends to focus more on changing and proscribing the behaviour of the perpetrators of human rights violations, which traditionally has mainly been the state, a very important means to achieve this is to allow victims of human rights violations committed by the state some sort of remedy. One of the great advances of modern international human rights law is that for some key international human rights Treaties2 under certain circumstances3 individual victims of violations are able to make an international complaint against the state that is violating their rights.4 Although concentration on the victim’s situation has not been the main focus of human rights advocacy and scholarship, a key feature of human rights is surely a concern for victims of violations and the need to address their situation.