(AGENPARL) – Den Haag (Nederland), ven 11 gennaio 2019 25th meeting of the Genocide Network at EurojustOn 14 and 15 November 2018, more than 120 experts and high-level delegates from EU Member States and international organisations gathered at Eurojust to exchange valuable knowledge and experience in investigating and prosecuting cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (core international crimes). The participants of the European Network of Contact Points in respect of persons responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (‘the Genocide Network’) also explored practical ways of preventing, and recovering from, secondary trauma due to repeated exposure to traumatic testimonies and events, depicting acts of appalling violence and other atrocities.
The 25th meeting of the Genocide Network at Eurojust was convened by the Austrian Presidency of the European Council. The meeting was attended by numerous practitioners and officials from various EU Member States’, Observer States’ as well as representatives from the International Criminal Court, the United Nations Mechanism for the International Criminal Tribunals, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism on international crimes committed in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Kosovo Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, the European Commission, Eurojust, Europol, INTERPOL, as well as the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, the Human Rights Watch, Redress, the International Federation for Human Rights, the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) and TRIAL International, reflecting a widespread, strong interest in the work of the Genocide Network.
First-hand information on ongoing cases of core international crimes
The first day of the meeting was dedicated to sharing operational information between the Genocide Network’s contact points on investigations and prosecutions in ongoing cases. The contact points stressed the importance of the meeting as a unique platform to agree on and follow a consistent approach in tackling specific operational and legal issues at EU level. The participants also exchanged views on, and experience in, trials taking place in EU Member States’ courts to identify and apply best practice throughout the European continent and beyond.
Secondary trauma: prevention and recovery
During the second day, the Genocide Network addressed the issue of secondary traumatic stress or secondary trauma among practitioners dealing with the investigation and prosecution of core international crimes. Next to investigators and prosecutors, this health risk also affects other professionals, such as interpreters, who are exposed to the testimonies and emotions of traumatised victims, witnesses and even perpetrators. The Genocide Network participants focused on the clinical aspects and the effects of secondary trauma due to unfiltered exposure to testimonies, evidentiary material or information illustrating violence and hideous crimes or by being confronted with the extreme suffering to which other people were subjected. Long-term exposure may jeopardise the mental well-being of professionals, with further consequences on their private life and the daily work of their organisations. The participants also pointed out the significant difference between secondary trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), burnout or compassion fatigue. The Genocide Network discussed measures to prevent and mitigate the symptoms of secondary trauma. The impact of secondary trauma can be reduced or eliminated by building on implemented preventive programmes, already designed by some organisations, such as the Action Plan developed by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. The crucial role of management in ensuring self-care and team-care in secondary trauma cases was also highlighted during the meeting.
Photo © Eurojust