In its first verdict, the International Criminal Court (ICC) today found Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga guilty of recruiting and using child soldiers between 2002 and 2003.

The verdict is historic, not only because it is the first verdict of the the court since it was set up 10 years ago. But also because the guilty verdict means victims and their families will now be entitled to reparations from the court.

This entitlement to reparations is a result of Article 75 of the Rome Statute (1998) for the International Criminal Court, which allows the court to set parameters for enforcement of restorative justice for survivors of human rights violations.

The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) overseen by the Court is the main mechanism for doing so, along with the Court’s legal mandate to require individuals convicted by the Court to compensate victims of their crimes through their own financial resources.

The Trust Fund is an historic institution essential for the realization of the ICC’s progressive mandate towards victims and is an acknowledgment that justice for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes cannot be met by retribution alone. It works alongside the Court’s reparative function to benefit victims. It acquires its assets from donations made by States and non-State entities.

As the Statute does not apply retrospectively, there is no such fund for victims of crimes heard at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which was established four years earlier in 1994.

Former Presidents of the ICTR, Judge Pillay and Judge Byron, both have stated that the lack of reparation for genocide survivors is a serious shortcoming of the ICTR. This is a view held as well by Survivors Fund (SURF), along with our partner Redress, and the survivor organisations in Rwanda with which we partner.

As Ruben Carranza, Director of the Reparations Program of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) comments:

The necessity of reparations is often undisputed. Reparations are arguably the most victim centered of the various approaches to fighting impunity; but in recent years, most of the international resources meant for transitional justice and peacebuilding has gone to operating war crimes tribunals, occasionally to truth commissions, certainly to reintegrating ex-combatants, but seldom, if ever, to directly benefit victims of human rights violations.

This is a shortcoming that we plan to address, and next week Survivors Fund (SURF), along with Redress, will begin the process of consultation with our partner organisations in Rwanda as to how we plan to work together to right this wrong.

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