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International Legal Systems - Page 8


If there is a conviction in your case (after trial or after an accused pleads guilty), the court will impose a sentence, which is the punishment the convicted offender will receive. Sentences for terrorism cases vary from country to country, and can range from a short time in jail to the death penalty. The country’s law may or may not allow a victim to offer a statement about the impact of the crime, which in some systems can include the victim’s opinion about the appropriate sentence. Either way, the sentence may not be what a victim thinks it should be. Sentencing laws can be complex, and can allow for prisoners to get reductions in their sentences if they work, exhibit good behavior, or reach a certain age while in prison. In many countries, there is a practice to release a prisoner after a certain length of time regardless of the formal sentence. It is also possible for foreign governments to grant prisoners a “remission,” which is a reduction in the sentence usually resulting in release. Remissions may  happen during a major religious holiday or for other political reasons. If a prison sentence is imposed, you should be aware that other countries may not determine or keep track of prison release dates in the same way the U.S. does. This lack of information can be frustrating and concerning for victims. Reductions can be very hard to keep track of, and the country may not be equipped to keep accurate records. In some past cases, foreign governments have released prisoners long before their official release date because of prisoner illness, new laws or prisoner exchanges. DOJ/OVT will work with you to try to keep you informed about prisoner releases.


We at DOJ/OVT hope that this information helps you understand some of what lies before you. We are sincerely sorry for the suffering that you and your loved ones are going through, and we are here to walk beside you through this ordeal. Please try to be patient with the criminal justice system and the justice actors that will work with you, as our ultimate goal is to help pursue justice and accountability – no matter how long it may take.

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Updated May 25, 2023