The Justice Initiative – Restoring justice for victims of abuse in Europe

This is a blog piece written by ECPAT Norway’s senior advisor that visited Switzerland for the symposium.

ECPAT Norway travelled to Switzerland last weekend to support a European Initiative seeking truth and reparations for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. What was the catalyst that brought together this large group of committed individuals into the wonders and majesty of the medieval city of Bern? In essence we came together to try to correct the limitations experienced by victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and their opportunities to seek redress for the harm suffered. The group included lawyers, child psychologists, academics, historians, pastors and businessmen. This wide range of skill sets, cultures and languages came together for a common cause – placing the rights of victims and survivors front and centre.

The participants in the Symposium. Copyright: Simone Padovani

It is in recognition of the many hurdles that victims and survivors face in seeking reparations that the need to collectively bring many European countries together was imperative. National movements – even those which have provided some form of support of recognition for the considerable harm suffered by many children – have failed to provide effective redress. Many speakers highlighted how current procedures have resulted in victims and survivors being forced into difficult and often retraumatising processes to seek redress. Additionally, many individuals accused of these terrible crimes are able to maintain a situation of impunity – often shielded by authorities.   

We had the great privilege of listening to Professor Helen Keller, former Judge of the European Court of Human Rights, explain the potential for a European Initiative from a legal perspective. She examined various options we could use to influence changes to legislation and the process of redress for victims throughout Europe. As a researcher in international law it was a special privilege to be able to share in the reasoning and considerations of this legal expert. In addition, it is reassuring to know that all the options have been carefully analysed and we have chosen the best course of action available to us. Our hope now is that the choice of submitting a motion to the Council of Europe will begin a process of change. For too long even if victims and survivors of abuse have been offered any limited form of justice it falls far short of what they seek. This motion is a step towards designing victim and survivor centric reparations for child sexual abuse. This requires that effective redress must be provided for all. Simply offering money, if that is even offered at all, is not enough. Our motion calls for 4 things: truth, recognition, reparation and prevention. We will continue to work together throughout Europe to ensure that this can be achieved, and we will support all our colleagues who are working to achieve this globally.

It is an honour and a privilege to be involved and I am very thankful to the incredible Guido Fluri foundation, especially Guido and his team in Switzerland for inviting me to be part of this movement.

Guido Fluri with all the signatures on the Justice Initiative. Copyright: Simone Padovani

We would like to use this opportunity to reinforce that we stand in solidarity with the other dedicated partners and NGOs throughout Europe and call for action to ensure all victims and survivors receive prompt and effective reparations. We fully support the motion that will be submitted to the Council of Europe and ask that all the 47 governments in the council enact legislation to support victims and survivors in their quest for reparations.

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