The Victim’s Human Rights

In the past, the victim of a crime played a significantly smaller role in the criminal process – the victim was relevant only for providing evidence. They were considered merely collaborators with the State. This has markedly changed over the last few decades. The shift was driven following World War II, largely due to the pressure from many victim support organisations, the increasingly visible attention given by the media, and also due to the growth in scientific research in victimology. This highlighted the need to establish preventive policies, support, and de-victimisation. The Brazilian Code of Criminal Procedure (CPP) provides for a series of victims’ rights and allows victims to play a broader role in the criminal process. Many international and Brazilian organisations oversee the implementation of victims’ rights in customary international law.

A set of rights is acknowledged for crime victims, which they can exercise to meet their needs and defend their interests and expectations.

These rights are provided not only in national laws but also in international legal instruments, such as UN Resolution n. 40/34 on the Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power.

Here, you can learn more about these rights and understand how they can be implemented.

The Pro Victim Institute can assist you in exercising some of these rights by providing information and clarification and guiding you through the institutional process. However, the Pro Victim Institute does not represent crime victims in legal proceedings.

Right to Participation

Victims should be treated with respect and have their feelings and interests acknowledged. Victims should be informed about their rights so that they understand them, along with clear disclosure of their case. All Member States must ensure that victims have free access to victim support services. Victims should be allowed to participate in the process if they wish. If they choose to get involved, they may be assisted by lawyers or by public defenders if they cannot afford legal representation, provided that they request it. Especially vulnerable victims, such as children, victims of sexual assault, or individuals with disabilities, must be adequately protected. Victims also have the right to be protected during police investigations and trials. Crime victims have special rights during the criminal process. These rights are mostly contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure. For more information, please refer to our explanation of criminal proceedings. Authorities that victims engage with during the criminal process must ensure that the victim is treated with respect, sensitivity, and professionalism and is not subjected to discrimination. The involved parties should always consider the rights and interests of the victim and ensure the victim's rights are respected. This is in accordance with the Federal Constitution (art. 1, clause III) and the organic laws regulating the action of each actor in the criminal process. Law No. 14.321/2022 provides for the crime of institutional violence. According to the law, institutional violence occurs when a public agent subjects a victim of a criminal offence or a witness to violent crimes to "unnecessary, repetitive, or invasive procedures that lead them to relive, without strict necessity, the situation of violence or other situations potentially generating suffering or stigmatisation". Those responsible for practising it can be punished with detention from three months to one year and a fine. Approved in March of 2022, the rule altered the Abuse of Authority Law (Law No. 13.869/2019), adding Article 15-A to the text. The provision states that the penalty can be increased by 2/3 if the public agent allows a third party to intimidate the victim of violent crimes, leading to undue re-victimisation. If the public agent himself intimidates the victim during the process or investigation, the penalty provided for in the law may be applied in double.


Right to Protective Treatment

In addition to the victim's right to be informed and supported, the victim should be protected as much as possible during the criminal process. Specifically, repeated confrontations with the perpetrator, the crime report, and their descriptions should be avoided. Questions about the victim's private life are only allowed if they cannot be avoided in the process. In certain cases, the public may be excluded from the courtroom while the victim is being heard. In some cases, even the defendant may be excluded from the courtroom while the victim is heard, or the victim’s hearing can be conducted via video conference. In this scenario, the victim doesn’t need to be near the courtroom. The hearing of minor victims should typically be special, with no direct questions asked by the parties. The judge receives all questions and forwards them to the court psychologist, who, in a separate room, formulates them in a way that preserves the victim's dignity and psychological integrity. Victims and their families have the right to protection against acts of retaliation, intimidation, or continuation of criminal activity against them. They have the right to be protected from acts that may jeopardise their life, physical integrity, emotional and psychological well-being, and dignity while giving testimony. Whenever authorities consider there to be a serious threat of revenge acts or strong evidence that the victim’s safety and privacy may be severely and intentionally disturbed, an adequate level of protection should be ensured for the victim, as well as their family or close associates. Victims can always request to be granted the status of a specially protected victim, meaning their data will not be transferred to the criminal process, with access restricted to the judge, attorney, Public Prosecutor, and court officers.  


Right to Compensation

Few people know, but a criminal conviction sentence constitutes an executive, judicial title, which confirms the offender’s obligation to compensate the crime victim. However, it’s ideal that the victim indicates the damages suffered before the process begins to avoid preliminarily liquidating the sentence to obtain the amount due as compensation. The offender is usually required to compensate the victim for material damages and may also have to pay compensation for moral or psychological damages. A compensation action means the offender must restore the situation that would exist if the crime hadn't been committed. This might include, for instance, expenses for repairing a damaged item, compensation for wage losses, or the cost of hospital treatment. The victim might also be entitled to financial compensation for pain and suffering if they have suffered physical or psychological damages, loss of freedom, or loss of the right to sexual self-determination. There are hypotheses where the offender has the right to benefits, such as a non-prosecution agreement, a penal transaction, or conditional suspension of the process or sentence, to name a few examples. In these cases, if there are elements, damage repair is set as one of the conditions for granting the benefit, and, if complied with, extinguishes punishability. Therefore, it is crucial that, from the police phase, the victim provides all evidence elements, allowing a thorough assessment of the damage caused. For minor offensive potential crimes of conditioned or private-public penal action, there is a hearing specifically designated for the attempt of composition between the victim and the offender. Minor offensive potential crimes are those whose maximum penalty doesn’t exceed two years. If an agreement is reached, the penal action is extinguished. If not, there’s still the possibility for the offender to benefit from a penal transaction, and jurisprudence has consolidated the understanding that it’s a subjective public right of the investigated under penalty of nullity.


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