Tag Archives: reparations

Reparations are allowed by the Rome Statute for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Lubanga Found Guilty

By Jvhertum (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Schevenigen Prison in the Netherlands where ICC prisoners spend pretrial detention.

Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today announced a guilty verdict for Thomas Lubanga Dyillo in his war crimes trial in The Hague.  Lubanga was accused of recruiting and conscripting child soldiers as the leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots, (UPC) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

According to the Lubanga Trial blog:

The ICC judges ruled that the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that Lubanga is guilty of the crimes charged. Judge Adrian Fulford, Presiding Judge of the Trial Chamber, in delivering the verdict said that there was reasonable evidence to believe that Lubanga was involved in a recruitment drive for his UPC rebel group and that such drive included conscripting children and using them for combat purposes. The judges also found that Lubanga personally used children as his bodyguards.

Lubanga was the first accused brought into the custody of court. 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.

The defense has a right to appeal the verdict to the appeals chamber.  Now that there is a verdict, the court may also begin the reparations phase and determine the appropriate amount and form of reparations to the victims recognized and allowed to participate in the case.

Are Victims Getting Short Shrift at the ICC?

Radio Netherlands reports that an NGO, REDRESS, believes the court is not focusing enough resources on the needs of victims. The REDRESS statement is available here. According to REDRESS:

Registry officials at the ICC have warned judges that they can’t
process the paperwork to enable victims to take part in crucial Court hearings, because they
simply have too few staff.

Earlier this month (4th July), Trial Chamber I ruled that hundreds of pending applications
from victims wanting to participate in the Callixte Mbarushimana confirmation of charges
hearing would be left out, because the Registry could not meet the deadline to process the
applications that had been set by the Court.

This decision will deny 470 victims who potentially qualify to participate in the case, a voice
during the confirmation of charges hearing, due to take place on 17 August 2011. This is
significant for victims who often perceive the Court as a remote institution and see the
confirmation of charges hearing as the first opportunity for their lawyers to make a
statement on their behalf.

The statement also offers the following comment:

“Victims are paying the price for the failure to properly resource the Registry. Victim participation is one of the most innovative features of the ICC, designed to involve in the justice process those most affected by crimes. Now, victims are finally coming forward to engage with the Court but the Court is not ready or capable to deal with them. If this resource issue is not resolved, victim participation will become a meaningless paper promise,” says Carla Ferstman, REDRESS’ Director.

The statement continued:

Mbarushimana is not the only case affected. In the Ruto case (Kenya) the Registry indicated
that it would only be able to process 400 out of 1800 applications. In the Muthaura case
(Kenya), the Registry also stressed that it would not be able to process all of the applications
from victims. So far, almost 2,000 victims are affected but the problem is likely to worsen in
the resource issue is not addressed.
The Court is finalising its Budget for 2012 which will soon be discussed with States that are
party to the Rome Statute, who are expected to pay. Despite the fact that the Court is now
working on many new investigations, including from Libya, Cote D’Ivoire and Kenya, some
States have been insisting on a ‘zero-growth’ budget from the previous year.
“States have recognised the importance of the Court by continuing to refer it new cases, but
have not matched this with adequate financial support. While recognising the financial
constraints on many States, why create a Court then prevent it from fulfilling its mandate?
Excluding victims from being involved in Court hearings is just another way to say they don’t
matter. This is the wrong signal to send to victims and affected communities.”

This is not the first time the court’s commitment to victim’s issues has been questioned.  Previously, in the Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo case, the court ordered that all recognized victims were to be represented by two lawyers.  Bemba has the largest number of participating victims,  1620 so far.  It is not clear how the two lawyers have an opportunity to establish a relationship with, or adequately represent, all the victims. Recently the Victims section has similarly solicited counsel to apply to be common legal representatives for all the victims in forthcoming Sudan and Kenya cases.

Victim participation in the proceedings is described in Article 68 (3) of the Rome Statute:

Where the personal interests of the victims are affected, the Court shall permit their
views and concerns to be presented and considered at stages of the proceedings
determined to be appropriate by the Court and in a manner which is not prejudicial to or
inconsistent with the rights of the accused and a fair and impartial trial. Such views and
concerns may be presented by the legal representatives of the victims where the Court
considers it appropriate, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.

The question raised by both the Bemba order and the REDRESS statement is how the court will meet those obligations.  Do the current measures and increasing consolidation of representation adequately safeguard the victim’s interests?  What procedures and funds are in place to allow the counsel to adequately represent hundreds or thousands of victims?  Can any one or two lawyers adequately perform that function?

Victims have a right to offer their observations and arguments on motions before the court, offer some evidence and question witnesses.  Victims may also seek reparations from the court if a conviction is entered.  The exact form of those reparations is not yet known.  The first case, against Thomas Lubanga began in 2009 and is not yet completed.

The International Criminal Court sits in The Hague, The Netherlands.  It is a permanent court intended to punish War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity or Genocide occurring within the 115 nations that have ratified the Rome Statute, or situations referred to the court by the United Nations Security Council, as has happened in Darfur, Sudan, and Libya.  Ivory Coast has also accepted the jurisdiction of the court for crimes occurring in Post-Election violence, even though it is not a signatory to the treaty.

Office of the Prosecutor Announces Ivory Coast Investigation

The International Criminal Court (ICC), Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) announced today the opening of an investigation into post-election violence in Ivory Coast.  The ICC, located in The Hague, The Netherlands, has authority to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide occurring in nations that have signed on to the treaty creating the court, or if referred by the Security Council of the United Nations, or when, as in Ivory Coast, the country has accepted jurisdiction, even though they are not a member state.

The notice states, in part:

By this notice, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court informs victims of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Côte d’Ivoire by any party following the presidential election of 28 November 2010 that he will shortly request authorization from the Pre-Trial Chamber II to open an investigation into such alleged crimes.

The Prosecutor notifies victims of the post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire that they can send their comments to the Judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber II on whether an investigation on such alleged crimes should be opened. The victims or their legal representatives have 30 days from this notice to make representations to the Pre-Trial Chamber.

Victims who wish to make observations and are seeking to do so are encouraged to contact the Reparations Center for assistance.  The Reparations Center and attorney John L. Fossum are interested in providing assistance to those seeking to participate, share their information or seek reparations.  There is no fee for this service.

Victims have an opportunity at the ICC to participate in ongoing cases by making arguments, presenting evidence, and ultimately seek reparations if there is a conviction.  Reparations and the process are funded by the 114 nations that have ratified the Treaty of Rome, now known as the Rome Statute, the founding document of the International Criminal Court.


Lubanga Trial Closes Evidence Phase

Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, has declared a closed the evidentiary phase of the trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. The court had previously announced the schedule for closing arguments, previously discussed here, which Judge Adrian Fulford announced will not be changed. “The clock has started ticking and nothing save an earthquake will stop it,” The Lubangatrial.org blog reports him as saying.

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo is the first person to face the International Criminal Court. He is accused of the war crimes of recruiting, using and conscripting child soldiers.  He was brought to the court in 2006, and his trial began in January of 2009.  The defense began presenting it’s case in January 2010.  The case stopped several times because of the prosecution cross examining witnesses with information that had not been disclosed to the defense.  At one point, the trial chamber issued a stay, finding that Lubanga could not get a fair trial, the appeals chamber reversed, but disclosure of evidence has continued to be an issue. The trial chamber again recently ruled on the disclosure problems and denied another defense request to end the trial because of the disclosure issues.

The questions raised by the ongoing disclosure issues were discussed in part, here.  Ultimately, the attitude and actions of the prosecutor in timely and properly disclosing evidence will determine whether or not an accused may get a fair trial at the court.  That, and the court’s reaction to the prosecution’s failure to comply with rules and court orders will determine the credibility of the court.  The court has been much in the news lately, which has added to American awareness of its existence.  It’s continued existence will require credibility in fair trials for the accused followed fair treatment of the victims in the reparations process when there is a conviction.