Comment on the Victims Lecture Question: “Assuming that the ICC chooses to retain victim participation in its processes, how can victims’ representation at the ICC be improved and victims’ rights be protected?”
I agree with kbeckett's comment that the court can "streamline and simplify" the process of including victim testimonies over time. As we learn more about what is and is not effective and representative, the system would hopefully adjusted accordingly and become more sophisticated. Carla Ferstman's talk leaves me with two pressing themes: 1) the exact courtroom legal proceedings and application processes to enable victim representation and 2) the benefit to the victim of being involved in the judicial process. Because I have not yet studied law and can not speak to the nuanced legal mechanisms to include victims in trial process, I would like to explore the second theme. I really liked the Dr. Stacy's questions on retraumatization and whether or not it is even worth making a victim relive the pain and trauma when material reparations are not even guaranteed?
I definitely do feel that the process of victim inclusion pushes the law beyond being law for the sake of law and becoming law for the sake of justice. I also agree with Carla Ferstman's take that there is a symbolic utility to having one's voice heard in the court of justice. However, I would argue that the benefit is not just symbolic but psychological because one of the main sites of trauma and pain is the psyche (or mind or brain? whichever makes more sense to you depending on your leaning). Significant neuroscientific and psychological research goes to show how sometimes for victims, even if they do not receive material reparations, the process of venting in a public forum does have an impact. This is because, due to the trauma they have undergone, their sense of fending for themselves in the past and present is greatly diminished as is their sense of reward and punishment. And, in this situation, the best thing for their neurological well-being and psychological recovery is often the process of speaking about the incident. This is a very crude distillation of the materials that I have read but many articles can be found online and in libraries.
That said, retraumatization is also a veritable psychological process that needs to be addressed and so, I would like to return to Dr. Stacy's question. In addition to retraumatization, I would also say that sometimes, especially in the case of a rape victim hailing from a , the cost of victim testimony can go far beyond retraumatization. This can have implications for the victims re-integration into society and her future. I would not do away with victim inclusion altogether. Rather, I would like to ask, how do we improve the existing mechanisms to tackles such issues? Because of these concerns of retraumatization and th costs to the victim of victim participation outweighing the benefits, I strongly feel that every legal team that deals with victims should be comprised not only of lawyers but also psychologists, neuroscientists and humanities/social sciences/academics of some sort (anthropologists, historians, scholars of religion etc). This would standardize the process a little bit more even though each and every case would be dealt with on its own terms as the team of academics would be working to highlight those case-by-case specificities that may positively or negatively impact the victim testimony process. The relationship between this legal team and victims would be one shaped by both parties doing fact-findings, the former understanding the latter's experience and the latter enhancing their knowledge of their civil rights in the legal courts. Hence, the essential lynchpin of this is knowledge all-around, knowledge for and by the "givers" of justice and knowledge for and by the "recipients." In an ideal world, this process of knowledge would collapse the giver-recipient boundaries. It would 1) align the interests between the victims and legal team experts as lawyers since the legal team would be so deeply relating to the victims and 2) make victims feel like informed and included participants of legal processes. Of course, I am theorizing and, for this kind of a legal team, there is a need for greater personnel and funding (the problems of realpolitik).
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