Human Rights & Public Liberties

Human Rights & Public Liberties

Published on: 13 Jan, 2021

ICC orders $30 million reparations to Ntaganda victims

Published on: 10 March, 2021


In a reparations decision on Monday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) ordered collective reparations of $30 million to direct and indirect victims of the crimes for which Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda was convicted.

The ICC convicted Ntaganda in July 2019 on 18 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder, rape, sexual slavery and using child soldiers.

In November 2019 the ICC sentenced him to 30 years’ imprisonment for his role in atrocities during the ethnic conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2002-2003. The sentence was the longest sentence handed down by the court.

According to Kevin Jon Heller, Professor at the University of Copenhagen, the amount awarded is ‘certainly impressive’. Speaking to Al Jazeera he said the amount ‘could greatly improve the lives of the victims.’

Since Ntaganda has been found to be indigent, the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims (TFV), will seek to financially complement the reparation awards to the extent possible and to engage in additional fundraising efforts.

The court stated that priority should be given to victims who require immediate medical and psychological care, victims with disabilities and the elderly, victims of sexual or gender-based violence, victims who are homeless or experiencing financial hardship, as well as children born out of rape and sexual slavery and former child soldiers.

Those eligible for reparations include direct and indirect victims of ‘crimes against child soldiers, of rape and sexual slavery, and children born out of rape and sexual slavery,’ the court said in a statement.

‘Completely unrealistic’

Legal experts have weighed in on the reparations decision.

Speaking to Al Jazeera Carla Ferstman Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex and reparations expert said: ‘‘The ruling makes some important points. It recognises children born of rape as among those who should directly benefit and it also recognises that judges should take into account what victims articulate as their needs: in this case they show a clear preference for practical, non-symbolic measures.’

But Ferstman is also critical of some of the language used by the ICC: ‘The ruling emphasises that the principle of no over-compensation should guide the award; victims should not be able to benefit more than once. This ignores that none of the ICC’s reparations awards have come even close to approximating the harm the victims suffered. It erroneously paints the victims as somehow greedy, which couldn’t be further from the truth.’

Heller is of the view that the amount of $30 million is ‘completely unrealistic’. Speaking to Al Jazeera Heller pointed out that the TFV currently has less than $20 million in reserves and most of that is earmarked for victims of other cases.’

Heller continues: ‘Perhaps the Trust Fund will be able to encourage additional donations by states, but the victims should not be holding their breaths.’

Mark Drumbl, Professor at Washington and Lee University told Al Jazeera that the reparations awards constitute ‘expressive justice’ or ‘symbolic amends’ since the amount is considerably larger than the total funds capitalised in the TFV.