Impunity Watch receives a €1 million grant from the Dutch Postcode Lottery
The Hague, 09 April 2021, Impunity Watch has been awarded a €1 million grant from the Dutch Postcode Lottery strengthen the cause of justice for victims of human rights violations by building resilience, solidarity, and strong movements for justice through which victims can voice their needs and demands more effectively. Support for victims and survivors is imperative, particularly at a time when human rights activists face new and unprecedented challenges, including the shrinking of space for civil society as well as the impact and repercussions of a global pandemic.
“Victims after a war have no one to help them. And this is why they need to be accompanied by organisations. The only thing that has allowed the organisation and mobilisation of victims so they can understand their demands and rights is by organising them. Only if they are organised they understand that they have to demand their rights, demand criminal justice and that Guatemala has to change. Because if it does not change, there will be no justice in Guatemala.” Miguel Itzep, National Movements of Victims Guatemala (a partner of Impunity Watch)
Over the past decade, the international human rights movement has come under increasing threat. As such, victims and human rights defenders have had to pursue their tireless struggles for justice in an increasingly hostile climate, faced with growing repression and government crackdowns. Violence is on the rise, and States are finding novel – and powerful – ways to use laws, regulations, and practices such as criminalisation, fake news, and smear campaigns within the mass media - to deny the truth about human rights violations, harass and silence victim movements (and their supporters), and starve them of resources. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the plight of victims even more challenging and invisible; providing repressive governments with the perfect justification to bring in restrictive measures and use these as a disguise or a means to wipe the demands of victims off the table. Without urgent action, there is a real risk that victims and their demands for justice will disappear from the political agenda completely.
According to Marlies Stappers, Executive Director of Impunity Watch, “Atrocities never appear out of thin air. They are the result of inequalities, unfairness and injustices that are deeply present in societies and the ways of government in countries where these horrific acts are committed. The most vulnerable and marginalised persons in society are disproportionally affected by these prejudices. When we know the causes behind horrific events, we are able to tackle them and reduce the chances that atrocities will be committed again. This is why the struggle of victims is so important. They hold the keys to helping humanity as a whole to live without fear of such horrendous outrages.” She emphasised the importance of making victims’ voices heard, as victims know best how violence has affected both them and society as a whole and pointed to the need to strengthen solidarity between victims and fostering alliances between them. “When strong coalitions of victims manage to open space to have a voice in public debate, when public opinion is more aware and supportive of their courageous fight for justice and they have access to politicians who support their calls, it will be more difficult for governments to drop justice and the demands of victim movements off the agenda. Their cause will be stronger,” she concluded.
“The most important element of our partnership with Impunity Watch is that it genuinely supports victim organisations to be autonomous and pursue justice by putting all of its resources, including networking and experience, at the service of victim organisations and making sure that their voices are at the forefront." Ahmad Helmi, co-founder of TA’AFI (a partner of Impunity Watch)
Impunity Watch has been working directly with victims and affected communities for more than 16 years in countries that have experienced civil war, genocide, dictatorship, and repression. We have learned that in order to deal with the past effectively we must: put the needs of victims at the centre of justice and ensure their active participation in justice processes; understand the connections between present human rights violations and past violence; and reduce systemic gender inequalities that almost always fuel mass human rights violations.
Victim organisations are often small, local and highly vulnerable to political and even physical attacks. With the support of the Dutch Postcode Lottery, Impunity Watch will prioritise work with victim groups from Burundi, Guatemala and Syria who most need our support, so we can make their organisations stronger, create connections between them and build strong coalitions and effective alliances for victim-centred justice. We will invest in efforts to make victims’ stories heard on the national and international level and fight back against attempts of powerful elites to silence them. And we will leverage the collective power of victim groups to influence political actors and support them in shaping what justice looks like and means for victims. In order to connect local victim groups and movements more effectively to the international community, we will strengthen their interaction with the International Network of Victims and Survivors of Human Rights Abuses (INOVAS), a global victim-led network that we recently helped to establish. This network provides victims and survivors with solidarity and a platform to voice their demands and raise these at the international level, and keep victims’ calls for justice on the agenda. This provides outside pressure in support of their fight for justice.
Impunity Watch stands up to make sure that victims are heard.