Court Establishes Reparations Process

Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued a 94 page decision describing the process for victims to collect reparations. The order, issued following the decision to sentence Thomas Lubanga Dyilo to 14 years imprisonment after having been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity as leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots for conscripting and using child soldiers in his rebel army in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The court ordered that most of the processing of claims be delegated to the Trust Fund for Victims which welcomed its new role in a statement. The trust fund reports that it has €1.2 million in its fund for reparations, and that 85 victims have made application for reparations in the Lubanga case and more than 8,000 victims overall.  All applications are to be turned over to the trust fund, though the court will maintain oversight and approve the details.  The court described “five step process:”

First, the TFV, the Registry, the OPCV and the experts, should establish which
localities ought to be involved in the reparations process in the present case
(focusing particularly on the places referred to in the Judgment and especially
where the crimes committed).  Although the Chamber referred in the Article
74 Decision to several particular localities, the reparations programme is not
limited to those that were mentioned. Second, there should be a process of
consultation in the localities that are identified. Third, an assessment of harm
should be carried out during this consultation phase by the team of experts.
Fourth, public debates should be held in each locality in order to explain the
reparations principles and procedures, and to address the victims’
expectations. The final step is the collection of proposals for collective
reparations that are to be developed in each locality, which are then to be
presented to the Chamber for its approval.

The American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court, (AMICC) reviewed and discussed the decision here, noting:

The Chamber noted that since Thomas Lubanga was found to be indigent, reparations will be financed by the Trust Fund for Victims, which tends towards collective reparation

Suggestions by victims and victims groups about the form reparations should take seemed to fall into three categories: reparations to empower victims economically and to stimulate local economic development, reparations to help heal the physical and mental health of victims, and symbolically (sic) reparations like a memorial.

The Trust Fund for Victims welcomed its substantial role in the reparations process and hailed the decision as “a historic milestone for victims of international crimes.” The Fund was set up by the ICC’s governing body, the Assembly of State’s Parties (ASP) in 2002 and currently has a total income of $5.5 million. $2.7 million has been set aside for grants in the DRC and Uganda.

Although the Chamber’s decision is not binding on future cases, the principles and procedures set out may be used by future Trial Chambers where they are practicable. It is possible that in a future case, where a defendant has means, a Trial Chamber may order individual reparations, or a combination of individual and collective reparations.

It appears from the decision that the direction of the court is to order collective rather than individual reparations. If the test is whether or not a convicted party has the means to make whole the victims of the kind of mass atrocities that would come before the court, then it is hard to imagine the defendant with the resources to make to make whole hundreds or thousands of victims after having spent some time in pre-trial detention, trial and appeal.

Lubanga was the first person to be tried, convicted and sentenced by the court, as previously described on this blog:

 Lubanga was brought to the court in May of 2006, his trial began in January 2009.  The defense began presenting its case in January 2010.  The case was stopped in 2009 to consider the addition of charges at the request of victims, and for other reasons throughout the trial, failure to disclose evidence by the prosecution, transcription and translation errors, and other issues.  The case was submitted to the court after closing arguments in August 2011.

At one point, the trial chamber ordered Lubanga released, finding that he could not have a fair trial because of the failure of the prosecution to disclose evidence and comply with court orders.  That decision was overturned by the appeals chamber and the trial resumed.


Court Video on the Reparations Decision (In French).

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