A website to help the victims
How do you find your way through the jungle of international law? How do you lodge a complaint under the "universal jurisdiction" principle that caused former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet so much trouble? What’s the best way to use the brand-new International Criminal Court?
What can you do when your country’s courts don’t work properly? How can you defend your rights when they’re seriously violated? The Damocles Network’s website, www.damocles.org, tries to answer all these questions.
For once, a website doesn’t just give you the key legal documents but offers a guide that victims of international crimes can use. It’s as easy as possible to understand given the complexity of international law and has been devised as a tool for the victims and especially their lawyers. It asks the questions everyone has in mind when they want to use international law.
The site is designed like a tree so the laws in different countries (for the moment only France and Belgium with others soon to be added) can be readily found. It suggests ways to draw up a legal complaint, based for example on the kind of crime, the type and rank of person who committed it, the victim’s country and the treaties that country has ratified.
The website of the Damocles Network, which is headed by Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish judge who pursued Pinochet, also offers a hotline for victims of terrible crimes, to point them in the direction of those who can best help them.
Damocles was set up at the end of 2001 by Reporters Without Borders, with the financial support of the European Commission, to fight against the impunity too often enjoyed by those who kill and torture journalists. The legal arm of Reporters Without Borders, it was born out of the alarming realisation that very few of those responsible for the murder, torture and forced disappearance of more than 500 journalists over the past decade had been punished.
To fight this, Damocles sends fact-finding missions to investigate the abuses and expose, if necessary, the failings and ineffectiveness of police and legal officials. It also helps victims and their families to take suitable legal action.
You can also find on the www.damocles.org website the latest news about freedom of expression and international justice and read articles by prominent legal and media figures. The site reports on what Damocles is doing and the legal action it’s taking. All its mission reports are downloadable in full in "pdf" or printable format. It also has the texts of all the major documents about human rights and international humanitarian law, a selection of our favourite websites and a list of recent publications about international law.
The Damocles Network site is easy to use, with a handy tool-bar where each section has its own icon. It’s also compatible with older browsers. The site is in English and French and designed by Rampazzo & Associates.