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European Network on Victims' Rights
Victims’ Rights


Victims’ Rights


Crime is an injury of the individual rights of the victim, and on the other hand it substantially affects the European Union and its citizens.

The European Union has achieved significant progress in the area of victims’ rights and active protection of victims of crime shall remain a high priority of the European Union and its Member States.

The 2019-24 strategic agenda of the European Council states that: “Europe must be a place where people feel free and safe. The EU must defend the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens and protect them against existing and emerging threats.”

Victims of crime in the European Union are entitled to have plenty of rights by EU legislation, regardless their nationality and the place where the crime was committed.

Victims’ rights cover the victims’ position in the criminal proceeding as well as the right for active victim support services that shall be provided for them.

The Victims’ Rights Directive [1] is functioning as a basic and general EU legislative act when it comes to victims’ rights. One of the most important principles of the Directive is to balance the rights of the victim and the defended in the criminal proceeding. This principle can be realized only if victims are “recognized and treated in a respectful, sensitive, tailored, professional and non-discriminatory manner, in all contacts with victim support or restorative justice services or a competent authority, operating within the context of criminal proceedings.” [2]

The Directive moreover sets up the minimum standards of victim support and protection that shall be provided for victims.

Who is entitled for victim support and protection in the European Union?

The Directive defines who is victim as it follows. “Victim’ means: (i) a natural person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss caused directly by a criminal offence; (ii) family members of a person whose death was caused directly by a criminal offence and who have suffered harm as a result of that person’s death.”

Who is obliged to ensure the victims’ access to their rights?

The Member States of the European Union (except Denmark)[3] had obligation to bring into force laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Directive by 16 November 2015.

After transposing the Directive, Member States shall ensure victims’ rights in the frame of national law.

For more information on victims’ rights in the EU please navigate to https://e-justice.europa.eu/content_victims_of_crime-65-en.do

What is the substance of victims’ rights?

Victims’ rights include the right for individualized support (victim support) and the right for procedural safeguards in the criminal proceeding (victim protection).

The Victims Rights Directive as basic EU legal act on victims’ rights set up the minimum standards to ensure victims to access to their rights.

Victims’ rights are rooted in the needs of victims. Victims are entitled for:

  • Recognition and respectful treatment

Member States shall ensure that victims are recognized and treated in a respectful, sensitive, tailored, professional and non-discriminatory manner, in all contacts with victim support or restorative justice services or a competent authority, operating within the context of criminal proceedings. The rights set out in this Directive shall apply to victims in a non-discriminatory manner, including with respect to their residence status.” [4]

  • Relevant information and tailored victim support

Victims of crime can experience various impacts coming from the crime committed. All victims of crime have rights for relevant information about her/his rights regarding the criminal proceeding and about the available support services.

Victims of crime shall be provided by tailored victim support on the basis of their individual needs. Support can be various depending on the victim’s personal conditions: practical, legal, emotional, psychological, administrative or any other type available in the frame of the national victim support service and meeting the victim’s needs.

  • Access to justice

In the context of a criminal proceeding, the procedural rules regarding the following rights for access to justice shall be determined by the national law.

  • Victims may be heard during criminal proceedings and may provide evidence.
  • Victims have the right to a review of a decision not to prosecute.
  • Victims have rights for safeguards from secondary and repeat victimization, from intimidation and from retaliation, to be applied when providing any restorative justice services.
  • Victims have right to have access to legal aid, where they have the status of parties to criminal proceedings. The conditions or procedural rules under which victims have access to legal aid shall be determined by national law.
  • Protection

In the meaning of the Victims’ Rights Directive, victims have right for protection from secondary and repeat victimisation, from intimidation and from retaliation, including against the risk of emotional or psychological harm, and to protect the dignity of victims during questioning and when testifying. When necessary, such measures shall also include procedures established under national law for the physical protection of victims and their family members.

Secondary victimization means harmful effects on victims caused by inappropriate actions or non-actions by those who come into contact with the victim e.g. the society, criminal proceeding bodies, victim support organizations or the media. Secondary victimization can appear in various forms e.g. the lack of recognition or respect, the improper language, the blaming of the victim, or the lack of information, etc.  

What is compensation for victims of crime?

Compensation is a type of support meaning financial recovery for victims of crime.

State compensation shall be ensured by Member States on the territory of which the crime took place. Those victims who suffered intentional violent crime against person can be entitled for state compensation. The 2004 Compensation Directive [5] requires Member States to set up national compensation schemes and give access to all victims who suffered intentional violent crime, committed in their territories. The Directive also sets up a Union-wide cooperation system to enhance victims’ access to compensation in cross-border situations.

The other type of compensation is the offender compensation. The Victims’ Rights Directive states that victims are entitled to obtain a decision on compensation by the offender within a reasonable time during criminal proceedings, except where national law provides for such a decision to be made in other legal proceedings.

In case of both state and offender’s compensation, the Victims’ Rights Directive provides for right to access to information about victims’ rights, including on how and under what conditions victims can access compensation.

For more information on national state compensation schemes please navigate to https://e-justice.europa.eu/content_compensation-67-en.do

What are the victims’ rights if the crime was committed in a Member State different from their country of residence?

Cross-border victimization means when a citizen from an EU Member State falls victim of a crime in a Member States other than his or her country.

In case of cross-border victimization, Member States shall ensure that victims of a criminal offence committed in Member States other than that where they reside may make a complaint to the competent authorities of the Member State of residence, if they are unable to do so in the Member State where the criminal offence was committed or, in the event of a serious offence, as determined by national law of that Member State, if they do not wish to do so. Also, Member States shall ensure that the competent authority to which the victim makes a complaint transmits it without delay to the competent authority of the Member State in which the criminal offence was committed, if the competence to institute the proceedings has not been exercised by the Member State in which the complaint was made.

What is the role of the European Network on Victims’ Rights in improving victims’ access to their rights?

The European Network on Victims’ Rights (ENVR) is a cooperation of governmental bodies responsible for victims’ rights in the Member States.

ENVR is responsible for keeping contact active between national governmental bodies in order to facilitate the implementation of EU law on victims’ rights into national law, and to facilitate the more effective application of the implemented law in practice.

ENVR can moreover assist in coordination between national victim support services in case of cross-border victimization.


[1] Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA

[2]Article 2 of Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA

[3] In accordance with Articles 1 and 2 of Protocol No 22 on the position of Denmark, annexed to the TEU and to the TFEU, Denmark is not taking part in the adoption of the Directive and is not bound by it or subject to its application.

[4] Directive 2012/29/Eu Of The European Parliament And Of The Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA.

Retrieved from: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32012L0029&from=EN

[5] Council Directive 2004/80/EC relating to compensation to victims of crime