The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) has undertaken several programs in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In February 2002, armed militias attacked the village of Bogoro in Ituri, and the ICC accused Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during that attack. Ngudjolo has been acquitted and awaits an appeals decision. Germain Katanga’s trial is still ongoing, pending possible changes to the charges he faces. The ICC has also convicted Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of using child soldiers during the conflict in Ituri. He also awaits an appeals decision on his conviction.
While the world’s attention is turned to these trials in The Hague, the TFV has been working on the ground in Ituri and other situations investigated by the ICC (including northern Uganda and the Kivus regions of the DRC). The programs are designed to provide physical and psychological rehabilitation and material support for victims of the crimes tried before the ICC. According to the TFV, the DRC projects focus on reconciliation and are implemented at the individual and community level. As with all TFV projects, they are funded through voluntary contributions.
Thousands of victims and members of their community have directly benefited from these projects in Ituri alone, the TFV has reported. The TFV estimates that there are over 70,000 direct beneficiaries of programs in the DRC and 110,000 overall.
The TFV reports that its diverse programs are helping victims in a variety of ways. Programs include initiatives such as “Schools for Peace” to instill a culture of peace through workshops at local schools; local micro-finance cooperatives to help provide economic stability; medical support; psychological counseling as well as other community reconciliation projects.
One TFV project focuses on the successful reintegration of former child soldiers in communities in Bunia, the headquarters of Ituri. In particular, the program addresses challenges faced by girls who became mothers while they were in captivity. According to the TFV, their project has helped communities reflect on the trauma of former child soldiers. The TFV reported that the children, their families, and communities often deny this trauma, which leads to moral judgment and exclusion. This program has attempted to address these and other challenges of reintegrating former child soldiers, the TFV stated.
Recently, the President of the ICC Assembly of States Parties, Ambassador Tiina Intelmann, and the Chair of the TFV Board of Directors, Mr. Motoo Noguchi, visited TFV programs in the DRC and Uganda. They visited several project sites and spoke with TFV project beneficiaries.
“I was personally moved by the courage and confidence of victims sharing their story about how their lives have been transformed as a result of the medical, psychological and material support they received through the Trust Fund’s programs,” Ambassador Intelmann said.
Her sentiment was echoed by Mr. Noguchi. “I have been encouraged by the reparative value of the Trust Fund’s programs and by its tangible impact on the lives of victims and their communities,” he said.
Now that the ICC has entered its first conviction, against Thomas Lubanga, the TFV might also be tasked with awarding reparations to victims in that case. The TFV reported that it is working on consolidating its assistance programs, which have been running since 2008, and will attempt to bridge over to its reparations mandate.