Home Secretary Alan Johnson announced new plans Tuesday to ensure that British citizens injured in terrorist attacks are compensated for their injuries. The new law, the Victims of Overseas Terrorism Compensation Scheme, is the most recent attempt by Western nations to ensure that civilians are not left without any recourse in the aftermath of a terrorist act.
As we have previously intimated, one of the most common ways that American victims of terrorism have sought recourse for their injuries is through civil suits against Foreign Terrorist Organizations and their support structure. The U.S. government has also implemented the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program, which provides financial assistance to victims.
Like the American program, the British proposal, which will retroactively cover attacks dating back to January 2002, will provide a means of compensation outside of the courtroom. As Justice Secretary Jack Straw explained in announcing the program:
"Terrorism is intended as a political statement and an attack on society as a whole. Therefore it is right that, as a tangible expression of sympathy, society should compensate the victims of terrorist attacks abroad in recognition of the injuries suffered."
The British compensation program will apply to all acts of terrorism that occur outside of the United Kingdom. The amount of compensation, available only to British citizens, will be determined based upon a number of factors including the severity of the injuries sustained.
Many of the details remain murky, however, the broad contours of the program that have been announced reveal a concerted effort to ensure that British victims of terrorism are given the financial support necessary to deal with the physical and emotional costs of an act of terrorism.