Daniela Gašparíková, UNDP Resident Representative to Montenegro
Regional Meeting of Victim and Witness Support Offices (Regional War Crimes Project)
Your Excellency, dear Judge Pean, distinguished partners,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you to Montenegro, on behalf of UNDP as a host of the meeting of judicial and prosecutorial victim and witness support services from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia.
Throughout the Western Balkans, UNDP is implementing initiatives aimed at strengthening the rule of law, contributing to bringing justice to victims and to reconciliation in the region. Accountability for war crimes and transitional justice is of universal nature and of global significance. As a part of the UN family, UNDP has traditionally been recognized for decades as a reliable partner to national endeavours in many other parts of the world where nations are dealing with sensitive issues from their past, as a key building block of resilient societies and institutions.
A part of our organization’s efforts to help the societies in the region move towards these goals is through UNDP’s Regional War Crimes project, financed by and implemented in partnership with the Government of the United Kingdom.
Its interventions aim to improve capacities of national institutions to assist victims of war crimes in the region. We are well aware of paramount importance of your work as a key enabler of criminal justice systems to process crimes and treat victims and witnesses in dignified manner. While this applies to victims and witnesses of any crime, in the case of war crimes it carries significance that touches upon trust and social cohesion of communities and societies overall.
The very demanding war crimes trials in the region have often played a ground-breaking role in introducing, promoting and developing victim and witness support in your respective jurisdictions, and I know that many of you personally have been at the forefront of these efforts in your countries.
Hence, allow me to use this opportunity to sincerely commend your own personal and professional dedication, achievements, and your hard work over the years with victims, most of them very traumatized, and to express admiration for your own resilience in co-oping with the challenges of your mission.
More than 10 years ago, UNDP was proud to have been instrumental in helping the Croatian government set up the country-wide victim support system that was regarded as a model by international community. We are happy we are now also bringing your regional co-operation forward.
I believe the next two days will help you exchange experience, discuss many practical issues concerning your daily operations, and identify possible obstacles and ways to further improve your work for the benefit of the victims and judicial processes. You experience and views will be used to bring the issues to the attention of the governments in the region, international partners and to try to address them through this or possible other interventions in the future.
I also welcome the victim support officer from the International Residual Mechanism, our UN sister institution, and I am sure his participation in the meeting will also contribute to the fruitful dialogue and be beneficial both for the Mechanism and for your national institutions.
We hope this nice environment of the Montenegrin coast will also help you enjoy and spend constructive, but also pleasant time with your colleagues.