At an international meeting in Switzerland, victims’ groups from all over Europe launched the large-scale “Justice Initiative”. With this political initiative, abuse of children, especially in state and church institutions, is to be comprehensively dealt with for the first time in all European countries. The European initiative is supported by the Swiss “Guido Fluri Foundation”, which has already successfully led a campaign in Switzerland to come to terms with child abuse.

Europe has violated the protection of children for decades: Hundreds of thousands of children and young people became victims of exploitation, maltreatment and sexual abuse. In particular, the most serious abuses happened in state or church-run institutions. In various European countries, until a few years ago, there were child removals, forced adoptions, sterilisations and drug/vaccine experiments on children and young people. In many cases across Europe, the state authorities were partly responsible for the suffering, or they failed to protect the children from the abuses and human rights violations.

To this day, these cases of abuse have not been dealt with in most European countries. This must now change. Victims’ groups from all over Europe, as well as academics and NGOs, have travelled to Switzerland to launch the “Justice Initiative”. This political initiative draws collective attention to a suppressed part of history and to the victims who are still suffering today because of the abuse and the lack of public recognition.

More than a dozen European countries at launch

The «Justice Initiative» is supported by victims’ groups, academics and NGOs from all parts of Europe, including survivors from Ireland. In a joint declaration signed by the representatives from Europe, the focus is on public recognition of the injustice, reparations and scientific reappraisal.

“This Justice Initiative is essential to the pursuit of justice for survivors of abuse and to challenge the prevailing narratives that prefer to see these abuses as happening somewhere else”, emphasises Dr. Mary Lodato, survivor of institutional abuse and activist for the victims of child abuse. The silence about abuse must finally be broken, says Prof. Dr. Darja Zaviršek, Chair of Social Justice and Inclusion at the University of Ljubljana. And Natascha Smertnig, Managing Director of WEISSER RING Austria, where, as in Switzerland, the process of coming to terms with abuse is continuing, adds: “It is very gratifying that we are now also taking joint action at the European level”.

Switzerland as a model for European reappraisal

“The time for reparations is rushing,” explains initiator Guido Fluri, who co-sponsors the European initiative with his reputable foundation and has received an honorary doctorate from the University of Lucerne for his commitment to child protection. “Most of the victims are now old and frail. They should experience during their lifetime how the injustice is recognised and dealt with throughout Europe.” In Switzerland, the Guido Fluri Foundation, together with victims’ groups, has made the “Reparations Initiative” a success: more than 10,000 victims who had suffered the most severe abuse have received reparations. Switzerland is working on the cases of abuse scientifically and will continue to support the victims with various projects. Based on the Swiss experience and positive solutions in other countries, victims’ groups from all over Europe have come together to pursue this political path at the European level as well. The “Justice Initiative” is an expression of this endeavour. By coming to terms with the past, child protection in Europe is to be strengthened in the long term.