For the first time the International Criminal Court (ICC) has decided on reparations for victims of war crimes. This as part of the case against former warlord Thomas Lubanga, who earlier this year was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the enlisting of child soldiers in the Ituri conflict 2000-2003 in DR Congo.
According to the ruling of the court, the forms of the reparations should be decided together with the victims and their communities and collected by the Trust Fund for Victims (TRV). After approval from the ICC, the funds of the TRV will then be used to implement the proposed actions.
The ICC especially stressed that the needs of ”vulnerable victims”, like women, children and victims of gender-based and sexual violence, must be prioritized, and also ruled that ”gender parity in all aspects of reparations is an important goal of the Court”.
Welcomed women’s inclusion
In a statement UN Women welcomed what they called ”the inclusion of explicitly strong language on aspects of gender-sensitivity and women’s inclusion”.
- As a mechanism of justice, reparations are of particular importance for women victims of conflict. Reparations have the potential to provide recognition of women’s rights as equal citizens, acknowledgement of the harm suffered, as well as a concrete contribution towards victim’s recovery, said UN Women’s Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri.
Funded through voluntary contributions
Available for reparations are ”the direct and indirect victims who suffered harm following crimes of enlisting, conscripting and using children under the age of 15 in Ituri (…) from 1 September 2002 to 13 August 2003”. This means that also family members of direct victims and individuals who intervened to help them could be potential benificiaries.
The TRV was, like the ICC, established through the Rome Statute, and its resources are mostly coming from voluntary contributions by States and private donors. The ICC therefore also pointed out that outside contributions now are important for the fund to be able to deliver a meaningful reparations programme. Thomas Lubanga has been declared indigent and will not be part of the funding process.
Gambian Fatou Bensouda has been appointed new prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. One of her chosen priorities is to develop a strong gender policy.
Fatou Bensouda. © Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images.
- Massive crimes continue to be committed in Darfur; Joseph Kony and the Lord Resistance Army’s acts of violence continue unabated in central Africa; Bosco Ntaganda is still a fugitive of the ICC. In total, 11 arrest warrants remain outstanding. Nothing short of arresting all those against whom warrants have been issued will ensure that justice is done for millions of victims of the crimes committed by these fugitives, Fatou Bensouda said in her acceptance speach.
- It (the office of the Prosecutor) will in particular (…) continue to look for innovative methods for the collection of evidence to bring further gender crimes and crimes against children to the Court to ensure effective prosecutions of these crimes while respecting and protecting their victims.
“Signals new era”
Fatou Bensouda has served as ICC’s Deputy Prosecutor on Prosecutions since 2004. Besides from promoting the development of a gender policy, she also has named reviewing the quality and efficiency of investigations and prosecutions and clarifying the process through which the office selects where it will conduct investigations, as issues she will focus on during her time in office.
Amnesty International welcomed Bensouda’s stated priorities and said that the inaugeration of her ”signals a new era in international justice and the potential for a more robust approach to their (the ICC’s) prosecution strategy”. The organization has previously called parts of the ICC’s prosecution strategy too restrictive, as with the case of Thomas Lubanga, who was only charged with crimes regarding the recruitment of child soldiers and not the other crimes, including sexual violence, that he was accused of.
The ICC is currently investigating crimes in Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Libya, the Darfur region of Sudan and Uganda. It is examining allegations of crimes in seven other situations in order to determine whether to open investigations: Afghanistan, Colombia, Georgia, Guinea, Republic of Korea, Honduras and Nigeria.
- Lubanga is convicted, that’s good. But there are worse war criminals walking free, protected by the government. That makes it harder for us to trust in the legal system, comments Christian Sango from the Congolese organization CEDEJ – that works to strengthen young girls’ rights and opportunities – after the first conviction ever in the International Criminal Court, ICC.
Goma in Eastern Congo is one of the places where several war crime perpetrators are still living, having ordinary lives. Many of them have not yet been prosecuted. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.
Thomas Lubanga was one of the war lords fighting in the violent Ituri conflict in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. A reported number of 70 000 people lost their lives in the war that took place 2000-2003. This March Thomas Lubanga was convicted in the ICC for having recruited child soldiers to his armed group, Union of Congolese Patriots, UPC.
Prosecutes war crimes
The ICC was established in 1998, creating a way for the international community to be able to prosecute war crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity. This is the first conviction ever in the ICC and it is internationally acknowledged as a mile stone in the fight against impunity after armed conflict. But at the same time the Lubanga case has been critizised for leaving out many of the crimes that the former war lord is suspected of.
- He is guilty of so many other atrocities, like sexual violence against women and abuse of kidnapped girls. But sure, the conviction is a signal, a warning to other criminals in DR Congo, says Aurelie Bitondo from the organization REFAMP.
No help for raped women
- For those of us who work with the victims, and to get the perpetrators prosecuted, this conviction is frustrating. I think of all the people who were killed in the war and the women who were raped. The women are alive today, but they have never gotten any help with health care or being payed damages. For them the conviction has little effect – many of them don’t even know about it, says Julienne Lusenge, who grew up in Ituri and now works for SOFEPADI.
Another leader still free
At the same time as Thomas Lubanga, Bosco Ntaganda – the leader of another armed group called National Congress for the Defence of the People, CNDP – was prosecuted. But Ntagandas case has not lead to any conviction. In an effort to stop the armed conflict in Eastern DR Congo, CNDP’s troups were merged with the Congolese forces, which suddenly made Ntaganda a commander of the national army. A fact that has upset many people.
- Ntaganda can visit restaurants, play tennis and lead a good life in Goma. He is protected by the government and President Kabila. To prosecute him is crucial for people to be able to trust in the legal system. He has many lives on his concience, he was called ”The Terminator” during the war in Ituri, says Christian Sango.
Thomas Lubanga’s sentence will be announced within the next couple of weeks.
The International Criminal Court (for Rwanda) was first with defining rape during armed conflict as a crime against humanity. More on this in women and armed conflict.