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The annual conference of Victim Support Europe in Edinburgh

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Reception at Edinburgh Castle hosted by Scottish Government

From May 29 to May 31st 2013, Stéphane GICQUEL, president of SOS Catastrophes, had been invited to participate in the annual symposium of the association Victim Support Europe in Edinburgh.

Victim Support Europe was founded in 1990 by national organizations in Europe working with victims of crime. As the umbrella network, VSE consists of 34 national member organizations, providing support and information services to victims and witnesses of crime in 25 European countries. Victim Support Europe is committed to working to the highest ethical standards to improve the situation for victims of crime in Europe.

From 2010 onwards Victim Support Europe worked closely with the European Commission, European Parliament and other EU agencies on the development of the EU directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime. VSE engagements involved highlighting victims’ needs and priorities in the afterwards of crime, as well as providing expert input regarding the scope and practical implementation of the rights included in the EU Directive.

These three days of presentation and exchange have allowed to address the aggregate of the aspects of the victims’ situation in Europe. From one country to another, situations are quite different and the issue is to define common standards to meet the needs and difficulties of victims.

A few seminars in smaller groups were a useful addition to the plenary sessions, to focus on some technical aspects. One of these seminars has actually allowed to raise the question of disaster victims with a presentation done by the representative of SOS Catastrophes. In fact, extreme differences separate countries, since in too many countries, the victim support associations (Victim support NGO) do not take any action. In other countries, like France, disaster victims benefit from a specific management device, in which Victim support France (called INAVEM) offers to each victim a legal information and a psychological support.

In his presentation, Stéphane GICQUEL has thus underlined the need for the Victim support NGO to be able to intervene across Europe to help disaster victims. These victims are fully recognized victims, with the same difficulties and needs as criminal offence victims. Moreover, in a few European countries, a criminal proceeding is opened following a disaster (explosion, train accident, air crash) and hence, this distinguo between victims makes no sense.

Finally, and it is an essential argument, in many disasters there are victims from many different countries (for example in the AF447 crash, there were nationals from 17 countries of the European Union) and in order to avoid any treatment discrimination, it is important to implement a European coordination.

Hence, SOS Catastrophes’ wish is to call for consideration, along with Victim Support Europe, on the management of disaster victims.


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