There are many international mechanisms to judge the perpetrators of human rights violations, but few instruments to guarantee support for the physical and mental rehabilitation of the victims of atrocities. They are totally forgotten, but the violations have had an lasting effect on the mental and physical health of the victims and on the the structure of the society itself.
The victims or passive subjects of violations of economic, social and cultural rights can be groups or individuals. International human rights rules are said to create obligations erga omnes by reason of the indivisibility of the thing which is protected. To obtain a clearer idea of the concept of victim, it is worthwhile referring to the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power. States are not always interested in protecting human rights in the individual sense. They are more sensitive to the protection of rights which are more fundamental than humanitarian. They generally undertake to enable individuals to avail themselves of mechanisms which monitor their rights, as is the case for civil and political rights.
"Victims", according to the Declaration, means "persons who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury... or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights". In this case, the victims are those who have directly and personally suffered the harm arising from the violations. Another, broader, approach is to understand by victim anyone who can prove that he has suffered harm or has an interest in taking action. The injury for which reparation is requested may be material or moral. All national legislations have long accepted compensation for moral injury, both for the direct victim and for his heirs. In the international sphere, this idea would seem to be slowly but surely gaining acceptance. it may be inferred from the current case law of the international legal bodies that the basis for determining the amount and nature of the compensation is not solely the physical or material injury or damage but also the direct or indirect moral injury.
In its observations on communication No. 107/1981, the Human Rights Committee stated that the mother of a disappeared person was herself a victim: "The Committee understands the anguish and stress caused to the mother by the disappearance of her daughter and by the continuing uncertainty concerning her fate and whereabouts... In these respects, she too is a victim of the violations of the Covenant suffered by her daughter...". Other international bodies, such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Commission of Inquiry set up by the International Labour Organization and the European Court of Human Rights, have all confirmed the principle of compensation for moral injury. In view of the massive and systematic violations of which the third-world peoples have been victims in the recent past, such as slavery, colonization and cultural looting, it is obvious that there could only be a global remedy, the purpose of which is to reestablish these peoples in their communal rights by returning to them the goods of which they have been unlawfully dispossessed. These collective claims can be managed and successfully concluded only with the cooperation of the international community and the manifestation of the will of every actor on the international stage.
The status of victim and the rights attaching thereto are transmissible to the successors. This concept of successor should be understood in a wide sense and comprise, in addition to the direct victim and his heirs and assigns, legal entities whose purpose is to defend the economic rights of individuals or groups whose rights have been violated. This is the case of trade unions and could be that of non-governmental organizations. As regards trade unions, the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights has already enshrined the principle by enabling them to submit to it for consideration a collective labour conflict. In economic matters, the victims are often groups of people since the rights violated are often collective ones that affect large segments of the population. This in no way extenuates individual violations of economic, social and cultural rights. The many different forms of violation require different kinds of penalties, mainly of an economic nature as mentioned above.