Recent years have seen the unique ICC system of restorative justice undermined by financial, political and logistical constraints. To ensure that ICC judgements have a tangible impact for victims and communities affected by atrocities much work lies ahead in raising awareness of and support for the Trust Fund for Victims so it can deliver on its mandate.
The Rome Statute empowers victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide to hold their persecutors to account and live with hope, dignity and respect. The ICC is the first international court to give victims the right to participate in trial proceedings. Victims can — through a Court- or self-appointed legal representative — present their views and concerns. The Rome Statute also establishes victims’ rights to seek and receive reparations.
Reparations are not limited to monetary compensation. They can come in many forms, including rehabilitation. Reparations are decided by the Court’s judges and — when ordered by the judges — administered by the Trust Fund for Victims (TVF).
By assisting victims to return to a dignified and contributory life within their communities, the TFV contributes to realizing sustainable and long-lasting peace by promoting restorative justice and reconciliation.
Recent years, however, have seen the system’s restorative emphasis undermined by financial and political constraints. To ensure that ICC judgements have a tangible impact for victims and communities affected by ICC crimes, much work lies ahead in raising awareness of and support for the Trust Fund.
Taking stock 2017: Trust Fund for Victims
Established under the Rome Statute, the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) has two missions:
1. To implement reparations when ordered by the Court’s judges; and
2. To provide general assistance, including physical rehabilitation, material support, and/or psychological rehabilitation to communities and victims of crimes under ICC jurisdiction.
In its May 2017 newsletter, the TFV outlines its most recent achievements, including: how implementing reparations orders has fared; what TFV board members saw on field visits; what ongoing general assistance projects have accomplished; and how funding the TFV can make – and is already making – all the difference.
Coming on the heels of the Court’s second reparations order, this time for victims of Germain Katanga, the newsletter unpacks who will stand to benefit and when we can expect to know more.
But given the Court’s young age, the general assistance mandate is where most TFV activities to date have been concentrated.
In February 2017, ICC President Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, TFV Chair Motoo Noguchi, TFV Board Member Mama Koite Doumbia, and TFV Executive Director Pieter de Baan visited ongoing TFV projects in Uganda and the DRC.
Tens of thousands of victims have already benefitted from TFV programs in these situations. The remaining projects are reportedly to wind-down by November 2017.
“We must not let victims remain in the past, trapped in suffering. Make them part of the future. The resilience of victims and their ability to overcome unimaginable harm should be the foundation for a just and peaceful society, built on shared trust and confidence in the future." Motoo Noguchi, Chairman, TFV Board of Directors
“The visit shows the Trust Fund’s unique imprint and track record of delivering reparative value to victims and their communities.” Mama Koité Doumbia, TFV Board of Directors
"I wanted to hear the views of victims that have benefitted from these projects and to express my support for them as well as my support for the Trust Fund and its local partners. Their work is fundamental for the mission of the ICC.” Judge Silvia Fernández, ICC President.
On 17 May 2017, the opening day of its annual Board of Directors meeting, the TFV announced the launch in 2018 of a new assitance programme for victims of Côte d’Ivoire’s 2010-11 post-electoral conflict.
Victims missing out: The Kenyan example
It is far from plain sailing for the TFV. Civil society has been long been calling on the TFV to ramp up its activities, and for states to put their money where their mouths are.
In Kenya for example, the Trust Fund has not conducted general assistance due to its assessment of security concerns, leaving many victims unassisted. An April 2016, Human Rights Watch report, I Just Sit and Wait to Die: Reparations for Survivors of Kenya’s 2007-2008 Post-Election Sexual Violence, highlights the ongoing physical, mental, social, and economic impact of sexual violence together with other human rights abuses committed against women and girls and men and boys during Kenya's 2011-12 post-election violence.
HRW called on the Trust Fund to extend its activities to Kenya, along with all countries where the ICC has opened investigations.
With the collapse of the Kenya cases, there is presently no prospect that victims will be eligible for ICC-ordered reparations.
As always, money is a problem.
Court-ordered reparations can come from the convicted person’s assets. When the convicted person has little or no assets, the Trust Fund can also contribute to reparations to victims.
However, The Trust Fund’s ability to provide general assistance is dependent on voluntary contributions, primarily from ICC member states, as well as some non-state entities.
In the latest newsletter, we learn who contributed what in 2016 as well as the first part of 2017. Specifically highlighted is the Swedish government and its support for the TFV as a tool in conflict prevention.
“Sida is proud to support peace-building and reconciliation projects, such as those of the TFV. This is an important complement to the Swedish commitment to the implementation of the Rome Statute.” Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
More governments should follow Sweden's lead. The Coalition for the the ICC stressed as much, among many other topics, at the TFV Board of Directors during its annual meeting in May 2017.
Gender justice through victims' reparations
At the margins of the Commission for the Status of Women (CSW) in New York in March 2017, the Coalition organized a side event to raise awareness on the work of the TFV as a mechanism for reparative justice. The side-event specifically sought to raise awareness on issues of international justice among less-involved women’s groups, offering opportunities to network and exchange information with other women’s groups.
TFV Board member Mama Koité Doumbia, who is also President of the Malian National Coalition for the ICC, gave an account of her visits to Uganda and the DRC to visit Trust Fund programs.
“My personal assessment from this visit is that the intervention of the Trust Fund through its assistance mandate has been of vital importance to the most vulnerable victims, including children and women, and that it must be continued with the support of our funding partners.” Mama Koité Doumbia, TFV Board of Directors
“Raising awareness on the mandate and activities of the Trust Fund for Victims during the 61st session of the CSW offered a unique opportunity to remind stakeholders that gender equality and economic empowerment of women go hand in hand with gender justice. Economic empowerment is indeed a prerequisite for gender equality but the full realization of women’s rights will only be achieved with women having access to justice and by ending impunity for sexual and gender-based violence.” Jelena Pia-Comella, Deputy Executive Director, Coalition for the ICC.