Ensuring the rights of victims with disabilities

The European Commission published a EU Strategy for victims’ rights for the next five years (2020-2025) in June. EU laws on victims’ rights adopted in the past were not well respected by EU countries. It is still very difficult for victims of crime all over Europe to claim their rights due to lack of information, support and protection. This is why the EU adopted a specific strategy.

The Strategy sets keys actions for the EU, EU countries and other actors (other EU bodies, victim support organisations and civil society organisations).

Why is it important for persons with disabilities?

Any person with disabilities can be a victim of crime. Persons with disabilities, especially women and girls with disabilities, are more at risk of being victims of violent crimes including hate crimes, than other persons. Women and girls with disabilities also face gender-based and domestic violence, including harassment and other abuses, such as forced abortion and forced sterilisation. For instance, data shows that women with disabilities are two to five times more likely to face violence than other women, and 34 % of women with a health problem or a disability have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner in their lifetime.

Once victims of a crime, persons with disabilities have difficulties to access support measures and services available to other victims, and to exercise their rights to and in the criminal proceeding. These services available to all victims are often not accessible to them.

What does the strategy say?

The strategy sets actions for the next five years, focusing on two objectives:

  • Empower victims to report crime, claim compensation and ultimately recover from consequences of crime
  • Work together with all relevant actors for victims’ rights

The Strategy recognises that persons with disabilities are often victims of hate crimes or use and that their access to justice may be more difficult, especially if they are deprived of legal capacity. It also includes the obligation of the strategy to comply with the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, to which both the EU and all its members states have signed up.

Important actions created by the strategy are:

  • Launch of a EU and national awareness campaigns on victims’ rights (including support for victims with specific needs)
  • Promotion of training activities for people in contact with victims
  • Promotion and creation of support services for victims with disabilities
  • Provisions of EU funding to victims’ support organisation and relevant community based organisations
  • Accession of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, or alternative measures that achieve the same objectives
  • Creation of a Victims’ Rights Platform and appointment of Victims’ Rights Coordinator in the European Commission

Most of these actions aligns with the recommendations from EDF, now the EU needs to make them a reality.

What are the next steps?

For EDF:

  • We will ask to become member of the Victims’ Rights Platform
  • We will ask that victims with disabilities are included in the EU awareness raising campaign
  • We will continue to advocate for accessibility in reporting crimes and receiving compensation
  • We will ask that trainings to professionals include training on the rights of persons with disabilities and extend to all persons in contact with potential victims, including people working in institutions, prisons, psychiatric hospitals and asylum centers

For organisations of persons with disabilities:

  • Check whether the policies for victims in your country include provisions on the rights of victims with disabilities: if not, it may not be in line with the EU law on victims’ rights and you can inform EDF and the European Commission
  • Check whether the services for victims are accessible to those with disabilities: are shelters accessible to wheelchair users? Do helplines provide texting services?
  • Check whether your country is adopting its own victims’ rights strategy and ask to be involved