By Ms. Minou Tavárez Mirabal, TFV Board Chair
It is impossible to fully undo the harm caused by the most serious human rights violations in the world – crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and crimes of aggression. However, it is possible to recognise victim survivors for the harm or damage they suffered and to redress them. It is possible to make their right to reparations a reality.
The international community made a commitment to justice for victims of these most serious crimes by adopting the Rome Statute in 1998. The Statute created the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecuting those responsible for these crimes and provided for a Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) of the crimes under the Rome Statute and for their families, to make the funds of the convicted persons and additional voluntary contributions available for the benefit of the victims. The TFV implements awards of reparations ordered by the ICC against the convicted person, and provides assistance to victims in ICC situation countries.
While the TFV Secretariat is funded by regular assessed contributions by States Parties, the reparations and assistance programmes have been funded through voluntary contributions from States Parties to the Rome Statute and private donations, as all to date convicted persons were held not to have the funds to pay for reparations themselves. A very limited source of funds to date have been fines imposed as a penalty in the Bemba et al. case on persons convicted for having committed offences against the administration of justice.
The TFV, established by the Rome Statute, is led by a Board of Directors, elected and accountable directly to the Assembly of States Parties (ASP).
The Board of Directors represents each of the five regional groups. On 6 December 2021, the seventh Board of Directors of the TFV was elected for a three-year term (2021 – 2024) (LINK), and so the Board is composed of Ibrahim Sorie Yillah (Sierra Leone), representing the African States, Sheikh Mohammed Belal (Bangladesh), representing the Asia-Pacific States, Andrés Parmas (Estonia), representing the Eastern European States, Kevin Kelly (Ireland), representing the Western European and other States and myself (Dominican Republic), representing the Latin American and Caribbean States.
As per the relevant ASP Regulations (ICC-ASP/4/Res.3), the TFV, through its Board, is mandated to fundraise for its activities, decide on the use of funds, implement reparation awards ordered by the Court, conduct outreach, consult with victims, experts. For its proper functioning, the Board of Directors is assisted by a Secretariat that carries out the day-to-day activities of the TFV relevant to fundraising, fund management and all implementation-related activities.
The Secretariat operates under the full authority of the Board of Directors, is headed by an Executive Director and currently consists of about 25 staff members. For administrative purposes, the Secretariat and its staff are attached to the Registry of the Court. The TFV operates in The Hague and in ICC situation countries with staff members at currently five ICC Country Offices. The TFV collaborates with numerous sections within the ICC in the delivery of its activities.
Strengthening the Board and the Secretariat of the TFV
The Board is conducting an ambitious program of work to address the challenges faced by expanding reparations and assistance programs, as well as ensuring transparency and accountability to States Parties, the Fund’s donors and, most importantly, to victims of crimes so that their human rights are not violated again.
Accordingly, instead of the mandated annual meeting, the Board is meeting every month remotely to drive strategic planning, institutional development and provide direction to the activities of the Secretariat. The Board will prioritize fundraising and convening increased political support to the essential work of the Trust Fund.
Also in 2022, the Board has, in agreement with the current Executive Director, initiated a transition in the Secretariat of the TFV, with the position of Executive Director becoming open for recruitment. The Executive Director Pieter de Baan, who has been in office since 2010, has led the set up of the TFV, several cycles of assistance programmes in Uganda and DRC and the programmes described below. This important transition will bring new opportunities to further develop the TFV.
Reparative Justice for victim survivors
Reparations are ordered by the ICC and implemented by the TFV (Article 75.2 of the Rome Statute) following a judicial process and are directly related to the criminal responsibility of a convicted person established by the ICC. The ICC has issued four reparation orders in the Lubanga, Katanga, Al Mahdi, and Ntaganda cases. A fifth reparation order is expected in the Ongwen case later this year.
In the Katanga case, the TFV complemented the awards for individual reparations for 297 victims of the case in 2017 and 2018, with the voluntary contribution of the Netherlands. Implementation of the collective awards for education support and income-generating activities ended in early 2022. The last collective awards relevant to psychological rehabilitation and housing assistance will be completed in 2022.
In the Lubanga case, the TFV has launched the reparation programme with a consortium to implement the collective service based awards for the benefit of the more than 2,000 former child soldiers and their families. In 2021, a five-year programme started that requires additional funding of about EUR 4.5 Million. In 2022, the TFV has started the implementation of the symbolic award intended to build multi-functional spaces to be used for peacebuilding and culture activities among the community members.
In the Al Mahdi case, the reparation programme started with the payment of individual compensation awards as of January 2021 and nearly 800 individuals have received the award to date. In March 2021, the TFV in collaboration with the Presidency of Mali, hosted a high level ceremony in Bamako, with the participation of the ICC Prosecutor, to award a symbolic euro to the government of Mali, in relation to moral harm suffered by the Malian population, and to UNESCO, in relation to moral harm suffered by the international community for the destruction of the world heritage sites in Timbuktu.
In the Ntaganda case, the TFV started in 2022 to provide a limited number of priority victims in urgent need with initial reparation measures through its existing partners in Ituri Province, DRC.
In addition to implementing reparation awards ordered by the ICC, since 2008 the TFV has provided support in the form of administrative, non-judicial reparations to individuals who have suffered harm from crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC. Victims receive medical treatment, trauma counselling as well as socio-economic support. Through its implementing partners, the TFV also establishes community dialogues and conducts peacebuilding activities.
Currently, the TFV is implementing such assistance programmes in the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. The TFV will launch in 2022 new programmes in Georgia, in Mali and in Kenya.
Call for action for victim and survivors of atrocity crimes
Hundreds of thousands of individuals have suffered from armed conflict. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing conflict exacerbates pre-existing conditions of their physical and mental wellbeing. Victims and survivors of atrocity crimes have the right to receive reparations for the harm they have suffered.
Thanks to the support received from the TFV’s donors and implementing partner organisations, more than 1,600 individual beneficiaries to date received a variety of reparation measures, and the population of Mali and the international community received symbolic reparations for the destruction of world heritage sites in Timbuktu. In addition, the Trust Fund has provided to tens of thousands of victims in the DRC and northern Uganda since 2008, and more recently in the Central African Republic and Côte d’Ivoire as part of its non-judicial mandate (assistance programmes). In 2021 alone, the Trust Fund provided reparative measures to more than 17,000 direct beneficiaries across those programmes.
Additional funds are needed to allow the Trust Fund to treat victims in one case and one situation country equally and provide them all with a similar kind of reparations. Continuity is essential to ensuring a lasting effect of reparations and to avoiding re-traumatization of victims.
The TFV therefore calls for support politically, morally, and financially from governments, individuals, academics and private sector, to amplify the voices of victims and survivors at the centre of the Rome Statute system, to ensure their rights to receive reparations can be realised.
TFV donor countries:
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Philippines (before withdrawal from the ICC), Poland, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.
TFV implementing partner organisations:
Association des Femmes Juriste de Centrafrique (AFJC), Comité Inter Africain pour les Femmes de Centrafrique (CIAF), DanChurchAid (DCA), Mukwege Foundation, Medicins d’Afrique Centrafrique, AVSI Foundation, Développement Rural à l’Ouest – La Lutte Contre le Faim (DRAO-LCF), West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP-CI), Association des Mamans Anti-Bwaki (AMAB), Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI), Sociétés des Missionnaires d’Afrique (SMA), Solidarité pour la Promotion Sociale et la Paix (SOPROP), Appui aux Femmes Démunies et Enfants Marginalises (AFEDEM) -R.D. Congo, Médecins du Monde Belgique (MdM), World Relief, CIDEAL, CFOGRAD, UNESCO, AVSI Foundation, Centre for Children in Vulnerable Situations (CCVS), Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), Health Right International (HRI), Transcultural Psychological Organisation (TPO).