Por Soraya Rodríguez Ramos

HomePostsReview of the Victims’ Rights Directive in the European Parliament initiated

Review of the Victims’ Rights Directive in the European Parliament initiated

Soraya Rodriguez Ramos. Informe sobre Directiva de Derechos de las Víctimas

Update available: download the approved report and analysis of the main developments of this resolution (Link) (May 2024).

MEP Soraya Rodríguez Ramos, as rapporteur of the dossier of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM), presented the draft report on the amendment of Directive 2012/29/EU on minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, known as the Victims’ Rights Directive. The presentation was made in the LIBE-FEMM Joint Committee, together with the rapporteur by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Javier Zarzalejos, also from Spain. 

Every year, around 75 million citizens are victims of serious crime in the European Union, but most crimes are never reported, as the 2021 Fundamental Rights Agency survey points out. According to this document, 64 % of people who suffered a violent incident in the EU did not report it to the police. The Victims’ Rights Directive, adopted in 2012, was an extremely important step towards establishing common standards to safeguard victims’ rights and providing them with support and protection at European Union level. In this article, we analyse the progress and challenges of the future EU Victims’ Rights Directive.

The current Victim Violence Directive has been applicable in all Member States since 2015, except Denmark, a country not bound by the Directive. In addition, the EU has specific rules for victims of certain crimes, such as trafficking in human beings, child victims of sexual exploitation and child pornography, and victims of terrorism. 

Problems in the implementation of Directive 2012/29/EU

In 2020, the European Commission adopted the first EU Strategy on victims’ rights for the period 2020-2025. In 2022, the European Commission requested the evaluation on the implementation of Directive 2012/29/EU and confirmed that, in general terms, the law had had the intended effects. In turn, it also identified possible specific areas to be improved.

On 12 July 2023, the Commission proposed amendments to the Victims’ Rights Directive to address five issues identified in the evaluation: 

  1. Victims do not always receive information about their rights or receive inadequate information.
  2. Vulnerable victims do not always benefit from the assessment of their needs or protection measures.
  3. The vulnerable victim often does not receive special support.
  4. The victim’s participation in criminal proceedings is difficult due to the lack of legal advice or guidance.
  5. Victims’ access to compensation in domestic and cross-border cases is hampered by a lack of state support.

The main consequence of these problems in the implementation of the current directive is an increase in mistrust in the judicial systems of other Member States, which may hinder the mutual recognition of judgments and decisions in criminal matters. This in turn replicates in greater skepticism towards national justice systems, which may result in a systematic under-recording of crimes. On the other hand, there are shortcomings in the legal recognition of victims and sufficiently dignified, personalized, professional and non-discriminatory treatment throughout the EU. In short, they generate mistrust in the penal system. 

The draft report on the Amendment of the Directive, presented by MEPs Soraya Rodríguez and Javier Zarzalejos, delve into the gaps in the current legislation and the transposition of this directive in the Member States. In the last decade, there have been very important social and technological advances, especially in the digital field. The current provisions of the directive do not take into account new crimes, such as cybercrimes, which are often more difficult to identify and criminalise, nor do the value the role of the media in providing support, protection and access to justice. 

Similarly, the current directive, for example, lacks measures that specifically address the recognition and access to justice of victims of collective crime, nor adequately combat the increased risk of revictimisation and crimes committed through new technologies. There is a real need for a paradigm shift and structural renewal in the way victims are protected and supported. The revision of this Directive is therefore of great importance. We have a unique opportunity to strengthen the rights of victims and guarantee their access to them. 

Objectives and priorities of the future Victims’ Rights Directive

The overall objective of this review is to ensure greater effectiveness and recognition of judgments and judicial decisions in criminal matters, to increase the level of security due to improved reporting of crimes and to promote victim-centred justice, where victims are recognised and able to exercise their rights. 

In addition, there are specific objectives such as significantly improving victims’ access to information; improving the adaptation of the protection and safety measures of the most vulnerable victims; and make more effective the participation of victims in criminal proceedings and compensation by the offender, including domestic and cross-border cases. 

Many victims who are in an irregular situation do not report for fear of being treated as criminals. The criminalisation of irregular migration leads to a loss of priority of rights in favour of migration control and national security. It also causes people in an irregular situation to suffer more with impunity ill-treatment and exploitation and severely limits their options for support and redress. The future directive will ensure that all victims, regardless of their residence status, will be treated equally in any country of the European Union. 

Several European Commission reports show that some victims need more support than is currently provided. For example, this is the case for those who suffer revictimisation or secondary victimisation, either by the criminal system or by the police that should protect them. The legal and practical limitations in collecting aggregated data on victims in Europe make it very difficult to assess the extent to which intersectional discrimination occurs. For this reason, we have expanded the concept of persons in detention to also cover people living in other closed environments, such as residential institutions, orphanages, mental health centres and social or care centres. It is important that victims suffering from crime in these settings can report effectively. This change would also cover cases of unaccompanied minors, who are normally less likely to receive an individual assessment of their support and protection needs.

The priorities of the rapporteur Soraya Rodríguez Ramos include:

  • Train officials who can come into contact with victims. The evaluation of the current directive pointed out that this was precisely one of the dimensions to be improved: deficiencies were identified at the level of type, content and level of training. Their training must be effective, advanced and interdisciplinary.
  • Strengthen the physical protection of victims in article 23, including referral to shelters and other types of temporary accommodation, which are particularly relevant to victims of gender or trafficking, apart from mentioning prohibition, restraining or protection orders. 
  • Reinforce the reference to online forms of some violence, such as gender-based violence or sexual abuse of children, as this is an increasingly present reality compared to 2012, the year of the original directive. In the European Union between 4 and 7 % of women over the age of 18 have experienced cyberbullying and in 2022 there were more than 32 million reports of suspected child sexual abuse online, an all-time high. 
  • Separate the individual assessment of victims in order to determine, on the one hand, their protection needs and, on the other, their support needs. It is a way to give equal importance to both processes and differentiate them, an approach that was also used in the Violence Against Women Directive.
  • To request Member States to take the necessary measures to establish a system for the collection, production and dissemination of statistics on crime victims, so that each Member State sends such data to the Commission (Eurostat) every three years. Coordination should be complete and there should be a common timeline in the communication to ensure comparability of such data. In addition, some data on disability and the relationship between the victim and the offender are added which will provide a better overview of the reality of victims in the European Union
  • Strengthen and recognise the important work done by non-governmental organisations and victim support and care associations and strengthen the role of the Victims’ Rights Coordinator. 

The Victims’ Rights Directive from the perspective of the Women’s Rights Commission (FEMM)

Sectoral legislation, such as the proposal for the EU Directive to combat violence against women and domestic violence or the Anti-Trafficking Directive, are not only necessary, but fully complementary to the Victims Directive. The Directive establishes universal minimum standards of protection for all victims, while recognising the specific needs for victims of violence against women and domestic violence, assuming the complexity of fully addressing the specific needs of these victims. 

The connection of the Victims’ Rights Directive with the Gender-based Violence Directive is very close. Therefore, the Committee on Women’s Rights (FEMM) is working together with LIBE on this report. Some issues that we will discuss in this review but which have already been the focus of debate in the negotiations of trilogues of the Gender-based Violence Directive are free legal assistance, training of people who are in contact with victims, financial compensation and the inclusion of medical support and the shielding of the right to sexual and reproductive health.

Timetable for adoption of the report

The European Parliament is currently in the first stage of drawing up the report. Following the presentation of the draft jointly by the LIBE and FEMM Committees, a deadline for tabling amendments was opened. The dossier is now in technical negotiations between all political groups, in order to seek a broad consensus on the new directive. The European Parliament’s position is expected to be voted on in March.

Audiovisual gallery

Soraya Rodríguez (FEMM) presented the draft review report of the Victims’ Rights Directive together with Javier Zarzalejos (LIBE).

Soraya Rodríguez Ramos

Mujeres al frente es un espacio de reflexión dirigido por la política y abogada española Soraya Rodríguez Ramos. Desde 2019, es diputada del Parlamento Europeo en la delegación del partido Ciudadanos. Desde su escaño de eurodiputada, desarrolla un intenso trabajo como portavoz en Igualdad de Género y Derechos de la Mujer del grupo Renew Europe, así como miembro del Comité de Derechos Humanos y de la Comisión de Medio Ambiente por su compromiso con el cuidado del planeta y la justicia climática.