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Government Support: Germany
Government Assistance to Victims
The national parliament, the German Bundestag, has provided financial means to compensate victims of terrorist attacks as part of the Budget Act. This voluntary payment, to which there is no legal entitlement, is to be understood as an act of solidarity of the state and its citizens with the victims of such attacks. At the same time, it serves to send a clear message that such attacks are condemned. The decision in the individual case is made on the basis of humanitarian reasons as a voluntary emergency aid of the state. The hardship compensation can be given as financial compensation for physical injuries and for violations of general personal rights (compensation for pain and suffering). Material damages are not included in the compensation scheme. Payments are granted by the Federal Office of Justice in Bonn as one-off capital payments. The application is made with an official form, which can be downloaded from here.
Since Germany is a federal state, general victim support is provided independently by the German Länder. The Länder work to improve the situation of crime victims and offer appropriate assistance through a variety of services. Such services include special training courses for police officers, appointment of victim commissioners at police stations, setting up witness support units, helping with accommodation, providing information to crime victims, and providing financial support. In several Länder, special regional foundations and victim support offices have been set up to care for and provide financial assistance to the victims of crime.
In cases of violent crime on German territory compensation is paid for any health damage caused by an intentional, unlawful physical assault, and for the resulting pecuniary losses (Victims Compensation Act). This includes violent acts of terrorism. Psychological injuries are recognized as damage to health. Victim’s compensation and assistance is based on the type and degree of severity of the injury or illness and on the individual’s actual needs, and comprises a number of different benefits, including :
• Medical and curative treatment, provided for an indefinite period if the health damage resulting from the assault persists
• Aids and appliances (medication, prosthetic devices, dental prosthesis, glasses etc.
• Rehabilitation measures
• Entitlement to monthly pension payments in cases of permanent damage to health (scaled payments if the recognised degree of health damage is 30 to 100); pensions are paid regardless of the beneficiary’s income and assets and are adjusted annually in accordance with development in the statutory pension insurance
• Entitlement to supplementary means-tested monthly pension payments if the health damage has an adverse effect on the income
• Additional benefits, for instance help with running the household, assistance for long-term care in case of financial needs
• In cases of special need, supplementary and mostly means-tested benefits
As from 1 July 2009, compensation - to a limited extent - is also paid in cases of violent crime abroad. No compensation is paid for damage to property and financial loss. Damages for pain and suffering are not paid.
More details can be found here
As a guideline for victims, the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection has issued the "Opferfibel". This handbook contains information on the victim's rights as well as contact details of various victim support institutions and organizations, including those dealing with victims of terrorism.
Legal Resources available to Victims
Victims of serious crimes, including terrorism, have the right to join the public prosecution as a private accessory prosecutor. According to section 397 paragraph 1 of the German Code of Criminal Procedure, the private accessory prosecutor is entitled to be present at the main hearing even if he is to be examined as a witness. He shall be summoned to the main hearing. He is entitled to challenge a judge or an expert, to ask questions, to apply for evidence to be taken and to make statements. Upon application of the private accessory prosecutor who has become the victim of a serious offence, an attorney shall be appointed as his counsel (section 397a of the German Code of Criminal Proceedings).
For more information, see the “fact sheets” on victim’s rights in German criminal proceedings go here.
Collaboration with other Organisations
Furthermore, there is a large number of non-governmental organisations providing victim support. These are run either by paid staff or volunteers to provide crime victims with advice and assistance. Weisse Ring e.V. and Arbeitskreis der Opferhilfen in Deutschland e.V. (ado) are examples of registered associations which operate on a nationwide basis. Aside from operating a national system of contact points for the victims of crime, Weisse Ring e.V. also runs a victims' hotline that is staffed 24 hours a day. Victims can receive help and support at any time, free of charge, by calling 116006 – the Europe-wide victim-support number. Arbeitskreis der Opferhilfen in Deutschland e.V. (ado) acts as an umbrella organisation for various professional victim support institutions. In addition to these nationwide victim support initiatives, Germany has approx. 1000 dedicated support institutions that are active at a local and regional level in Germany, some of which specialise in providing advice and support to the victims of certain types of crime in particular.