International documents (both binding legislations and recommendations) are among the most effective instruments that shape how justice services are provided across Europe. That is why it is essential that policy makers and others who draft and approve these documents become more and more aware about the benefits of restorative justice approaches. Our team offers consultancy and makes the most relevant research outcomes available to facilitate informed policy making processes.
You will find summaries of each document, additional guides facilitating to make use of them, and links to the original source.
The so called Victims’ Directive (replacing the EU Council Framework Decision of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings) is the first binding EU legislation on restorative justice as well as the first EU instrument mentioning restorative justice (instead of mediation).
The Victims’ Directive introduces restorative justice mainly through recital 46, article 2.1.d, article 4j (right to receive information from the first contact with a competent authority), and article 12 (right to safeguards in the context of restorative justice services). Even if it cannot be considered as a comprehensive legal tool on restorative justice and it focuses on victims’ rights (thus, it is not considering the offenders), the Victims’ Directive provides an adequate definition of restorative justice services. It introduces an obligation for the Member States to inform victims as to the availability of restorative justice services and to facilitate referrals to these services, and provides safeguards for victims of crime in relation to restorative justice. The Victims’ Directive recognises on the one hand the benefits of restorative justice for victims of crime, and on the other hand focuses on important safeguards to prevent secondary and repeated victimisation. It is equally important to mention the training provisions of the Victim’s Directive (article 25) that states that restorative justice practitioners should receive training tailored towards observing professional standards to ensure that restorative justice services are provided in an impartial, respectful and professional manner.
Based on the revision of the previous Recommendation on penal mediation, in October 2018, the Council of Europe (CoE) adopted the most advanced and innovative international legal instrument in the field of restorative justice.
The CoE Recommendation on restorative justice outlines several ways in which governments and criminal justice agencies can employ restorative justice principles and practices to help maximise the effectiveness of their victim and offender interventions, meet international justice standards and change systemic and institutional cultures. The Recommendation advocates for the use of restorative justice in all stages of criminal procedures and in all types of crimes; it provides evidence-based standards for implementing and delivering restorative justice in practice; argues for cultural change towards a more restorative approach to crime and criminal justice at all levels of policy and practice; it promotes innovative use of RJ outside the criminal procedure (probation, prison). The limitation of this document is its not binding nature.
The European Forum for Restorative Justice (EFRJ), represented by our Chair Tim Chapman, our director Edit Törzs, and founder Ivo Aertsen, had an important consultancy role during the meetings of the Council of Europe PC-CP (Council for Penological Co-operation) and in the exchanges with Ian Marder, the appointed expert for revising the 1999 Recommendation concerning mediation in penal matters.
You can read more about the (making of) the Recommendation(s) on two articles written by Christa Pelikan, Ivo Aertsen and Ian Marder for the EFRJ Newsletter (pp. 2-7, published in June 2018) and in the article written by Ian Marder and Tim Chapman for the CEP Newsletter (published in November 2017). Also, you can watch the panel discussion on “The role of international instruments for restorative justice” during the 10th international conference of the EFRJ in Tirana.
The European Forum for Restorative Justice drafted and is sending out to all CoE Member States country specific policy briefs on the potential impact of the recommendation in the countries.
The UN Basic Principles adopted in 2002 encourage the UN Member States to establish guidelines and standards that set out the use of restorative justice programs appropriate to their legal systems. In the preamble it recognises that restorative justice often draw upon traditional and indigenous forms of justice which view crime as fundamentally harmful to people. It furthermore, emphasises the potentialities of restorative justice as a growing and evolving response to crime that respects the dignity and equality of each person, builds understanding, and promotes social harmony through the healing of victims, offenders and communities.
Since the adoption of the UN Basic principles on restorative justice in 2002 the field has considerably evolved and developed. Recognising this development the ECOSOC initiated few years ago the review of the Basic principles and of the UN Handbook on Restorative Justice Programmes. On May 22nd 2020, the UNODC officially launched the Second Edition of the Handbook on Restorative Justice Programmes. The updated handbook is the result of the joint effort of experts' recommendation and observation and gathers new evidence-based findings accompanied by national and regional examples. Many European Forum for Restorative Justice members have been invited to participate at thereviewing process by providing their inputs and expertise.
In the EFRJ brief on the 2nd edition of the UN Handbook on RJ, we provide a clear overview of the novelties presented in the document and its potential value for governments, policy-makers and practitioners.