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International court awards reparation for war crimes for the first time

International Criminal Court orders payments to victims of convicted Congolese warlord and projects to help them restore their lives.
Germain Katanga, a Congolese warlord convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in the Hague on May 23, 2014. AFP / ANP
Germain Katanga, a Congolese warlord convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in the Hague on May 23, 2014. AFP / ANP

The Hague, Netherlands // The International Criminal Court on Friday awarded reparations to victims of war crimes for the first time since it was founded 15 years ago.

The tribunal ordered that a “symbolic” amount of $250 (Dh918) be paid to nearly 300 people who lost relatives, property or livestock or suffered psychological harm in a deadly attack on a Congolese village in 2003.

Judges also awarded collective reparations in the form of projects covering “housing, support for income-generating activities, education and psychological support” for victims.

The court found that the Congolese warlord Germain Katanga was liable for $1 million of the total material, psychological and physical damage caused, which it estimated at $3.7m.

Katanga was sentenced by the ICC to 12 years in jail in 2014, after being convicted on five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the February 2003 ethnic attack on Bogoro village in Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

He was accused of supplying weapons to his militia in the attack in which some 200 people were shot and hacked to death with machetes.

“The chamber has assessed the scope of the prejudice to 297 victims as $3,752,620. The chamber sets the amount to be contributed by Mr Katanga towards the reparations as $1 million,” said presiding judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut.

He recognised however that Katanga, who watched Friday’s proceedings from jail in Kinshasa where he is on trial on other charges, was penniless and had no home or possessions.

The “symbolic amount of $250 to each victim of Mr Katanga ... does not make up for the totality of the crime,” Mr Perrin de Brichambaut acknowledged.

However it “can grant some measure of autonomy to the victims by making it possible for them to engage in some kind of activity ... and make relevant decisions pertaining to their current needs,” he said.

The court asked the Trust Fund for Victims, an independent body set up under the tribunal’s founding guidelines to support those affected by war crimes, to consider using its resources to pay for the reparations and to come up with a plan for the court by late June.

Court officials said the fund could release up to $1m for reparations in the case.

Friday’s order is a landmark step for the tribunal, set up in 2002 to prosecute the world’s worst crimes, marking the first time that monetary values have been placed on the harm caused by such crimes.

The court decided that the cost of each house in Bogoro razed in the attack was $600, while the value of each lost harvest that year was set at $150.

Victims who suffered psychological harm after the death of a loved one were entitled to $8,000 for a close family member, or $4,000 for a more distant relative.

Legal representatives for the victims had assessed the damage at $16.4m in a filing to the court last year. They had calculated that 228 homes were destroyed in the village, that the school was lost and that hundreds of cattle and livestock had fled or been killed.

Five victims representing the group followed the hearing from the village of Bunia with their lawyers.

The Trust Fund for Victims has $5m available, of which $1m has been set aside for the case of Thomas Lubanga, another Congolese warlord who was sentenced in 2012 to 14 years for conscripting child soldiers in the DRC.

In October, judges approved “symbolic reparations” to create a “living memorial” to remember and raise awareness about child soldiers. But a final decision on collective reparations for Lubanga’s victims is still awaited.

The Ituri region where the Bogoro massacre occurred has been riven by violence since 1999, when clashes broke out that killed at least 60,000 people, according to rights groups.

* Agence France-Presse

Updated: March 25, 2017 04:00 AM



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