International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Justice Deferred? The Struggle of DRC Victims Post-Lubanga Trial to Receive Promised Reparations

Today AllAfrica.com published a commentary written by Olivia Bueno at the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) regarding a great deal of controversy surrounding the reparations relating to the trial of Thomas Lubanga, who received a 14-year sentence from the ICC for war crimes of enlisting, conscripting, and using child soldiers in the DRC.

It’s a fascinating piece, and certainly worth the read. I’ve also pulled out a few passages that I found particularly thought-provoking in terms of framing our discussion about restorative justice from Tuesday’s class. Particularly, I was struck by how I have been thinking about the effectiveness of the ICC based on those criminals it is able to apprehend and convict, but justice does not end with a verdict, especially not for the victims.

Click here to read the full article.

“In its decision, the trial chamber in the Lubanga case stated that victims should be awarded reparations and laid out principles for their application. However, the chamber did not make a decision regarding exactly what form these reparations should take. They decided that a proposal based on consultation with victims should be put together for approval by the Court. This left victims and the general public in Ituri with many questions, particularly about the form that reparations may take.”

“The Court has created enormous expectations on the part of many victims in Ituri and these expectations will be very difficult to meet.”

“They are talking about collective reparations. If you want to come and build a monument, that is fine, but don’t call it reparations.”

“These victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) are terrorized at home; constrained to remain silent by the notion that they should not undermine the honor of their community by denouncing violations committed against them by “their own.” Even if the Court has not been able to afford them the opportunity to express themselves openly, humanity should not ignore their suffering. That, she says, would be real injustice.”

“In fact, there is concern that a reparations program might even contribute to exacerbating tensions between some groups. “The Court says that reparations should not be discriminatory, but in practice the victims are more or less only Hema or Alur. What does this mean for victims who are Lendu or member of other groups?”

“They suggest a mode of reparations that address collective needs or which could be collectively used (such as a hospital serving a victim community) might be employed, rather than collective reparations that are merely symbolic (such as apologies or the construction of monuments or memorials).”

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2 responses to “Justice Deferred? The Struggle of DRC Victims Post-Lubanga Trial to Receive Promised Reparations

  1. cshipton November 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Public opinion in Ituri regarding reparations for the acts of Thomas Lubanga remains divided and after reading the article Sarah posted, I think it’s important to understand the complexity of the reparations issue in the context of restorative justice. As we’ve discussed in class, the Rome Statute places an obligation upon the ICC to award, “reparations to, or in respect of, victims, including restitution, compensation and rehabilitation. On this basis, in its decision the Court may… determine the scope and extent of any damage, loss or injury to, or in respect of, victims and will state the principles on which it is acting”.

    Restorative justice asserts a degree of involvement of the victim in the case of the perpetrator. This involvement is often considered the participation of the victim in the trial of the transgressor, however as we see in the Lubanga case, and what Sarah pointed out, justice often doesn’t end with a verdict. The fear amongst some victims in the Lubanga case is that the crimes committed against them will not be individually recognized. Crimes committed by Lubanga are seen as crimes committed against society, and therefore the reparations given will address society’s needs as a whole instead of those of individual victims. Discussion of collective reparations that would benefit society, such as memorials or victim hospitals, would include those victims not specifically involved in the trial. One argument against individual reparations is that many victims who suffered from crimes not addressed in the trial, such as sexual violence, would not be acknowledged. However on the other hand, involving those who suffered from crimes that Lubanaga was not sentenced for(everything outside the realm of conscripting, enlisting and using child soldiers) would be implying guilt without the judicial process.

    The question of reparations comes down to how one interprets restorative justice. Is it fair for reparations efforts to focus on society through projects that would benefit everyone? Or can restorative justice through reparations only be achieved by working for restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for an individual victim?

  2. emmaline786 November 11, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    I find the issue of reparations really interesting as it parallels domestic legal systems. On a wide range of issues from worker’s injuries to medical malpractice, victims in the U.S. legal system have the expectation that they will receive some monetary benefit from their suffering. To only give payment to the community that suffered an injury and not the individual and their family would be seen as unjust. But in the international setting, it seems that the reverse is true. Because it would be so difficult to properly administer reparations to every individual who suffered from a war crime, the discussion automatically settles on community reparations, if any will be offered at all.

    I think part of what complicates the issue is that a war criminal like Lubanga did not intend to inflict suffering on exact individuals – he committed large-scale crimes that left behind many victims. Therefore, it seems to logically follow that the reparations should benefit the victims collectively. But I don’t think this approach is nearly as victim-centric as it should be. Every victim who suffered violence or the loss of a family member has to live with those consequences – and their suffering is certainly no less than the suffering of a victim of sexual assault in the United States, who is entitled to bring the case to court. I think an important development in international justice will be when cases brought forward after war crimes are not just symbolic, but represent a definitive effort to find all victims who wish to tell their story, regardless of whether it fits within the prosecutor’s legal strategy.

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