The Final Conference of the Advancing Rights of Estonian Victims (AREV) project took place on 19 September 2023 in Narva (Estonia); it was hosted by Victim Support Europe and the Ministry of Justice Estonia. The 86 participants included many of the key stakeholders who were involved in the piloting and implementation of the different tools developed under the project: the Social Insurance Board Victim Support, Police and Border Guard Board, Viru District Prosecutor’s Office, Ida-Viru Central Hospital, Rakvere Hospital, Narva Hospital, Ida-Virumaa Women´s Support Centre, Viru County Court, Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Interior, local governments, forensic institutes and child protection services, amongst others.
The AREV project aims to offer better protection for victims of crime and to improve victim support services in Estonia. AREV is a pilot project that was implemented in Ida-Viru and Lääne-Viru counties in Estonia. During the project, the Estonian Ministry of Justice, the Police and Border Guard Board, the Social Insurance Board, the healthcare sector, and other stakeholders developed and delivered specific tools for assessing the needs of victims of crime, for the referral of victims from one service to another, and for the better provision of information. The AREV project results will hopefully be used to adapt this model for nation-wide implementation.
This article summarizes the discussions that took place during the final conference. The day was divided into different panel discussions; project members and stakeholders, in the field of victims’ rights and support, presented the tools created during the project, its benefits in supporting victims, and the future of the Estonian victim support system. The conference brought together 86 participants from various countries and backgrounds.
The conference was chaired by Antonio De Martin (Senior Project Manager of Victim Support Europe) and Anna-Liisa Uisk (Adviser of the Analysis Department of the Ministry of Justice Estonia), who also delivered the opening remarks.
Aleksandra Ivankovic (Deputy Director of Victim Support Europe) highlighted the unique nature of this project. She explained how experts from several countries brought together their knowledge and experience to implement this project in this region. She thanked all Estonian stakeholders for their enthusiasm and open-mindedness as well as their efforts which helped achieve the desired results. Aleksandra Ivankovic was glad to introduce the summary of the project’s achievements and hopes that it can become a nation-wide – and EU –wide – good practice. Markus Kärner (Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice Estonia) reflected on the needs of Estonian victims of crime and the engagement by all stakeholders looking to improve the current victim support system. He emphasised that the Ministry of Justice is committed to implementing the project’s best practices in the rest of the country. Aleksandra Marchewka (Policy Officer of European Commission’s Directorate General for Structural Reform Support) described the importance of this project’s results in light of the European Victims’ Rights agenda; she explained that the project’s multi-agency approach, with a strong focus on cooperation, played a key role in the project’s success.
Presentation: The ‘Advancing the Rights of Estonian Victims’ project
Following the opening speeches, Antonio De Martin presented further details of the AREV project. During his presentation, he described how the AREV project fits within the broader context of VSE’s model of a national framework for comprehensive victim support. This framework focuses on a victim-centred approach; all stakeholders working with victims of crime collaborate and work in synergy to ensure the full recovery and long-term well-being of victims. He further elaborated on the project’s methodology, its key activities and findings, and briefly introduced its outputs and products, which will be presented during the panel discussions.
Panel discussion: Developing an individual needs assessment for all victims of crime, best practices and lessons learnt
The first panel discussion was moderated by Antonio De Martin and consisted of a variety of experts: Egle Lipp (Service Coordinator with the East Prefecture Police and Border Guard Board), Gardi Anderson (Chief Prosecutor, Viru District Prosecutor’s Office), Mari-Liis Org (Head of the East Region of Social Insurance Board), Robin Fontijne (Strategic Policy Advisor, of Victim Support Netherlands) and Tarvo Kruup (Lieutenant Colonel with the East Prefecture Police and Border Guard Board).
The individual needs assessment (INA) is a strategic tool used to identify and evaluate victims’ specific protection and support needs. The process ensures victims receive protection from intimidation, retaliation, secondary victimisation etc., and provides support before, during, and after criminal proceedings. Prior to the panel discussion, Antonio explained the methodology used when developing the tool, its piloting, the initial results and its impact.
The panellists discussed the INA’s importance in identifying victim’s needs and use of victim-sensitive communication. All stakeholders elaborated on how the INA has improved their work and how they can include this multi-agency approach through synergies and collaboration efforts. The panel concluded with an evaluation of the piloting results and how the tool can be used in the future.
Panel discussion: Enhancing the role of health care in victim support through tools and synergies with key stakeholders
The second panel discussion was moderated by Ireena Schmidt (AREV Project Assistant, Victim Support Europe). The panellists were Elle Karm (Assistant Prosecutor, Viru District Prosecutor’s Office), Ksenia Verhovskaja (Board Member & Head of Nursing and Patient Care, Ida-Viru Central Hospital), Liis Otstavel (Chief Medical Officer, Rakvere Hospital), Pasi Randen (Deputy Chief Physician, HUS Emergency Medicine & Services, Finland) and Tatjana Kanaš (Head of Patient Care, Narva Hospital).
The discussion started with a brief introduction of the Abuse and Body Map, a tool that allows healthcare professionals identify signs of violence and provides comprehensive assistance to potential victims of crime. Ireena also gave a presentation on the tool’s development methodology, the results of the pilot project, and feedback from users.
The discussion continued with stakeholders explaining why they believe this tool is important to the needs of front-line healthcare professionals in contact with victims of crime. Other stakeholders, such as members of the prosecutors’ office, mentioned that the INA is also relevant to their work; the Abuse and Body Map can be used as evidence during criminal proceedings. The panel finally reviewed the tool’s benefits and potential future use, as well as identifying pilot project challenges.
Panel discussion: Presenting innovative information tools to facilitate victims' awareness of rights and services
The third panel was moderated by Aleksandra Ivankovic and consisted of the following panellists: Andrei Liimets (Head of Psychosocial Support Service, Social Insurance Board), Merli Tammi-Jõeveer (Chief Victim Support Specialist, Social Insurance Board), with a video presentation from Donna Bell (Communications Officer, Victim Support Northern Ireland), and Robin Fontijne (Strategic Policy Advisor, Victim Support Netherlands).
Aleksandra first presented two AREV information-provision tools – the Victim’s Journey and the Self-Assessment Questionnaire – their objectives, and the methodology behind their development. She explained the importance of ensuring that information on victims’ rights reaches victims in an easy-to-understand manner, based on the good practices highlighted in the infovictims project.
Together with the other panellists, Aleksandra discussed the importance of both information provision tools in the Estonian context and how these can be used in the daily work of victims’ support services. Victim Support Netherlands and Victim Support Northern Ireland demonstrated the benefits of using the tools in their respective national contexts, which led to a discussion on the potential of a nation-wide implementation of both information-provision tools in Estonia.
Over the past two years, the AREV project has developed several useful tools for the Estonian stakeholders; these include the Individual Needs Assessment, the Abuse and Body Map, the Victim’s Journey, and the Self-assessment Questionnaire. These tools have been piloted in one of the regions and the results have been evaluated; their conclusions will enable future actions to be drawn up that will continue to improve the rights of victims of crime in Estonia.
In conclusion, the AREV project team looks back to an interesting and fruitful discussion. We would like to thank the panel of speakers and all those who participated in this event. We hope that the conference served as a milestone on Estonia’s journey to further enhancing victim support.