WASHINGTON – Officials from Spain, Peru and the United States and authorities from the Organization of the American States (OAS) have claimed that the protection and rehabilitation of victims of terrorism needs more attention and called for greater awareness of their rights.
While more progress has been made on this issue in Europe, in Latin America anti-terrorism legislation largely ignores the victims, OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza said at a conference in Washington on Monday.
Attending the conference were the Director-General of Support for Victims of Terrorism of the Spanish Interior Ministry, Sonia Ramos; Spanish diplomat Javier Ruperez, who between 2004 and 2007 was the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee director; and the President of the Foundation for Victims of Terrorism, Maria del Mar Blanco.
Victims give a human face to the brutality and violence of terrorism, explain its barbarity, and so must be at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, said Ruperez, who was kidnapped for 31 days in 1979 by the armed Spanish Basque separatist organization ETA.
Ramos said that in Spain the rehabilitation process is comprehensive because it covers economic and social issues, and since 1999 it has paid almost $1 billion to terrorist victims and their families, besides promoting the fundamental role of the victims in the collective memory of terrorist attacks.
Peruvian ambassador Juan Jimenez Mayor spoke of the progress made by his country which between 1980 and 2000 suffered terrorist attacks by the leftist rebel group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path).
The group was believed to have caused 69,000 deaths in its war against the Peruvian government.
The ambassador also criticized the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission which defined Sendero Luminoso as a political group instead of a terrorist gang.
Jimenez said that in Peru the attention to terror victims is still in its initial stages but has political support, and stressed that his country is a world leader, along with Morocco, in collective reparations.
Adding the individual and the collective payments together, he said Peru has spent about $183 million in rehabilitation activities and has attended nearly 60 percent of victims.
Representing the United States, the head of the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism, Heather Cartwright, said that honoring, supporting and respecting the victims is also a form of fighting terrorism.