Welfare minister proposes aid to crime victims

Welfare minister backs both financial and psychological help for murder victims' families.

herzog visits murder victim parents  (photo credit: )
herzog visits murder victim parents
(photo credit: )
After a summer during which high-profile killings brought violent crime to the fore of public debate, Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog announced Monday that he would support a package of financial and psychological help to families of murder victims. Earlier this week, Herzog expressed discontent with the current law, arguing that it does not provide enough assistance, and during Sunday's cabinet meeting discussion of violent crime, he raised the topic of aid to families and others affected by crime. He emphasized he would bring a detailed proposal for government approval in the near future. The Noga Center for Crime Victims said that between 2007 and 2009, it helped 39 families of murder victims. But beyond the activities of the Noga Center and other NGOs, families of murder victims are left with very few legally ensured rights. The Law for the Rights of Crime Victims of 2001 merely states that victims' families are entitled to updates regarding the legal proceedings related to their loss. "Israeli society is violent and innocent victims pay the terrible price," explained Herzog. "The existing law does not give any answer to those who are forced to deal with the implications of the loss, the pain and the trauma that were forced upon them suddenly and not of their own accord. This is an intolerable situation. These are bereaved families who should be given appropriate assistance in light of the difficult situation in which they find themselves." Herzog's planned initiative is based on the findings of an interministerial committee that he himself established in the hopes of advancing crime victims' rights. The additional help would include immediate and long-term psychosocial intervention, free assistance during both civil and criminal trials, guidance in utilizing all of their rights, immediate funds for the expenses resulting from the mourning period and incurred as family members seek to return to their normal lives, and the establishment of a government-sponsored center to help victims' families. The Welfare and Social Services Ministry will also ask to set a series of general protocols for the release of information to the media regarding incidents of death, including restricting the release of information until after the families have been notified, as well as training teams how to notify family members. Both of these practices are already standard in the case of fatalities among security personnel. The interministerial committee, led by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry's assistant director-general Menahem Vagshel, looked into the assistance provided to all crime victims in terms of their needs, the current response provided and the required response. Within the panel's findings, a chapter is dedicated to victims of homicide and manslaughter - the members of the victim's nuclear families. The committee concluded that the nature of the crimes requires that victims' families receive psychological aid and long-term assistance, with a number of welfare, medical and legal professionals involved in the process. In their notice regarding the minister's plans, Herzog's office emphasized the term "innocent victims," implying that certain victims' families - including perhaps the Alperon mob family whose patriarch was murdered earlier this year - would not be entitled to the assistance.