Justitiële verkenningen

Article

Bescherm het slachtoffer, begin bij de verdachte

Trefwoorden victimhood, Christ, art history, Enlightenment, secularization
Auteurs W.J. Veraart
Auteursinformatie

293485 W.J. Veraart
Prof. mr. Wouter Veraart is hoogleraar Encyclopedie der Rechtswetenschap en Rechtsfilosofie aan de Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
  • Samenvatting

      This article argues that the notion of ‘victim’ primarily refers to the position of the person who, in the course of a (sacred, religious, legal, etc.) procedure, is ritually sacrificed to avert the wrath of the gods or to preserve peace in the community. In early modernity the Latin victima (sacrificial animal) was also used as a reference to Jesus Christ. Christ was seen as the Lamb of God, the innocent sacrificial lamb which, after an unfair trial, was crucified and died for the sins of the world. In the eighteenth century, under influence of the Enlightenment, the victim concept has been secularized and come to refer to every casualty of bad luck, crime, or disaster. Art history, however, offers interesting examples of pictures of mythical figures such as Sisyphus and Prometheus, representing early images of secularized victimhood in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In the present day, the concept of victimhood is often used to define the position of the injured party in criminal proceedings. In this frame, the injured victim, looking for legal recognition, is juxtaposed against the position of the accused who is characterized as the possible culprit. However, reflection on the history of the victim concept reveals that it primarily refers to the position of the wrongly or falsely accused or condemned in the course of legal (or pseudolegal) proceedings. A state governed by the rule of law (‘rechtsstaat’) can be defined as a legal form of society which does its utmost to avoid the justice system producing its own victims. In this approach, a victim-oriented criminal justice system is fully aware of the need to protect precisely those who are threatened by the power of the state and public opinion because they are in the dock.

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