Victims of Terrorism

Maria Otero
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights 
Madrid, Spain
July 9, 2012

As Prepared for Delivery
Delivered in Spanish

Good morning. It’s a pleasure and indeed an honor to be with you all today, as we kick off the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) High-Level Conference on Victims of Terrorism. On behalf of Secretary Hillary Clinton, I want to thank Foreign Minister Garcia-Margallo and Vice Minister of Security, Ignacio Ulloa for hosting this important meeting, which I know they first discussed this past February. I also want to acknowledge my colleagues, Ambassador Fernandez and Assistant Secretary Pressman, whose presence highlights the broad and deep commitment of the United States to this work.

Like the United States and so many countries around the world, Spain has experienced firsthand the pain that terrorism inflicts on society. You are to be commended for turning that pain into action by focusing on the people who suffer the most from terrorist acts.

Around the world, terrorists make their mark on the world through acts of hate. They proclaim their values with a deep and disturbing indifference to human life.

Those of you here today stand in stark contrast to terrorists, not only by condemning their acts but by countering their indifference with honor, dignity, and compassion for victims of terrorism.

So let me start by first thanking you for being here and for the work that you are doing on behalf of victims everywhere.

To the victims of terrorism that are with us this morning, I also thank you for your courage and your perseverance. Each of you is a testament to the fact that the human spirit cannot be easily broken. You are an inspiration to all of us, and we are honored to work not just on your behalf but alongside you in this important work.

Today we begin an important discussion within the Global Counterterrorism Forum—or GCTF – which offers a unique venue for bringing together governments, victims, and other interested stakeholders to share experiences and good practices in this critical and emotionally charged area.

Over the next several days, we will deliberate how states can increase their support of victims of terrorism, and how we can better integrate victims into the global effort to counter extremist narratives.

To start our discussion, I want to touch on four areas that the United States believes should be part of our comprehensive strategy to address the needs of victims and also integrate their voices into counter-terrorist efforts.

First, governments must be sure that victims of terrorism have the information they need and access to resources available from the state and the international community. The road to recovery is long, but it is made all the easier by accessible information and resources—from medical care to legal representation to psychological services. Governments should also ensure that the families of victims have access to these services, so that they can support the survivor’s recovery process.

Second, victims should have the opportunity to participate in the accountability process that follows any terrorist attack. They should have access to the perpetrators’ court proceedings, and be afforded protection if necessary, so that they may work towards recovery. For example, To help victims and survivors of mass violence and terrorism, some courts have ordered the closed-circuit transmission of trial proceedings to multiple locations so that victims may more easily participate in the trial process.

Victims often play an important role in supporting efforts to bring terrorist to justice, both as witnesses and as advocates for accountability. We must strive to protect and foster victim-participation in accountability efforts, while remaining respectful of the psychological challenges such a process can present.

Third, we must provide an environment for support and recovery of victims of terrorism. They should have the chance to meet other survivors and share experiences as each person advances his or her own healing. In order to create such an environment and network of support, we in the international community must foster an understanding of the unique and diverse needs of survivors.

And fourth, governments must listen to victims. In their process of healing and recovery, survivors can inform the global fight against terrorism. We need to elevate their voices and stories while also incorporating their wisdom into our counter-terrorism efforts.

We should ensure that those survivors who wish to share their stories have the opportunity to do so on the world stage. By magnifying the voices of survivors, especially through international media, we have a unique chance to educate the world about the pain inflicted by terrorists. Though such awareness is tainted with pain and suffering, it is all the more powerful in discouraging radicalized individuals and empowering other victims to speak up against violent extremism.

Last September at the official launch of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, I had the privilege to introduce the premier of a film “Hear their Voices”, which tells the stories of eleven survivors of terrorist attacks from Pakistan, Jordan, Northern Ireland, Uganda, Turkey, Indonesia, India, Spain, Columbia and the United States. The film, which was produced by the Global Survivors Network, is a powerful plea for audiences around the world, especially those sympathetic to the grievances expressed by extremists, to recognize the human cost of terrorism and I am delighted that our Spanish hosts are planning on showing this film here later this afternoon.

Over the course of the next two days we look forward to hearing about the inspiring efforts of victims, victims’ associations, and other civil society actors from around the globe working to prevent future terrorist acts. This includes the work of Sisters against Violent Extremism, which is bringing together the survivors of terrorist attacks, their relatives, activists and policy makers in addition to launching innovative campaigns such as Schools and Students Against Violent Extremism! and Mothers for Change!.

Moving forward, it is our hope that these and similar efforts will reach every victim of terrorism on the road to recovery and on our shared path of countering violent extremism in all of forms the world over.

In closing, I want to reiterate my thanks, on behalf of Secretary Clinton and President Obama, for the important work that you are doing. In the aftermath of a terrorist attack, we often turn our immediate attention to the perpetrators, while traumatized victims and survivors grieve and suffer in silence. But today, that changes. We look forward to the adoption of the forward looking declaration and action plan at the end of this conference that will reaffirm our hope that no victim suffers alone and set us on a course to mobilize additional resources and expertise to provide more victims with the training and other tools they need to more effectively put forward their own counter-narratives to messages touting violent extremism. Together with our GCTF partners , international and regional organizations, NGOs, and the media, we will ensure victims receive the respect and support they deserve, and we will advance efforts to counter violent extremism.

Thank you.