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Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship

Putting victims at the heart of criminal justice

(Rama – Creative Commons CeCILL)

Whatever the crime, victims share basic needs: respect and dignity, protection and support, and access to justice and compensation. Current laws across the EU can be patchy and do not always meet these needs. Today, as a follow-up to the EU Citizenship Report 2010, the European Commission is proposing to reinforce existing national laws with EU-wide minimum standards which cover any victim from any nationality in any EU country.

Throughout the EU, an estimated 75 million people may be victims of crime every year. When the incident takes place abroad – imagine a Polish tourist in Paris or an Italian teenager in Helsinki – different cultures, languages and laws can make protection hard to gain. Moreover the risk of becoming a victim of crime is just as great when travelling abroad as it is at home.

Today's proposed Directive on minimum standards for all victims will mean that people can rely on a similar level of basic rights and have confidence in the justice system wherever they are in the EU. "Today's proposals will ensure that the EU puts victims first," said Vice-President Reding, EU Justice Commissioner. They include ensuring respect, protection during investigations and trial, and providing clear information, as well as the identification of particularly vulnerable victims.

Victims' rights are covered by the principles of fundamental rights and non-discrimination. The latter was upheld in the landmark 1989 Cowan v Trésor public case, which ruled that victims have a right to compensation regardless of their nationality.