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How the Trust Fund for Victims Will Spend €1 Million on Collective Reparations in Congo

The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV or Fund) has described how it will use the €1 million (US$1.06 million) it has earmarked for collective reparations to victims of Thomas Lubanga’s crimes in Ituri district in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Fund, however, acknowledges that the available finances are insufficient to meet the reparations needs in the three-year program.

Lubanga, former leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia group, was convicted in 2012 over the recruitment, conscription, and use of children under 15 years in armed conflict. In addition to the 14-year jail sentence, Lubanga has to make reparations to victims of his crimes. However, the TVF is financing the reparations because the court found Lubanga indigent. Nonetheless, he will be expected to make additional reparations that are yet to be determined by the court.

Last October, following reparations hearings that included the prosecution, the defense, victims’ lawyers, and some non-government organizations, International Criminal Court (ICC) judges approved the TFV’s plan for symbolic collective reparations. The TFV was created under the ICC’s founding law to encourage reparative justice by providing assistance to victims of crimes that fall under the court’s jurisdiction and to complement reparations awards where convicted persons do not have the means to pay .

In a February 13, 2017 update to judges, the Fund explains that it has allocated €100,000 to contract services in support of victim identification and harm assessment and €170,000 to implementing the symbolic reparations component. The remaining amount of €730,000 will fund service-based components of the collective reparations program, allocated as follows: psychological rehabilitation (€292,000); physical rehabilitation (€146,000); and socio-economic measures (€292,000).

Regarding symbolic reparations, the TFV will build three commemoration centers that will host interactive symbolic activities. The Fund says the buildings may be utilized to exhibit pictures and artwork created by former child soldiers that depict the past, present, and their hopes for the future. They may also host music, dance, drama, and cultural events, or provide a venue for community dialogue on the crimes and how to attain reconciliation.

There will be mobile memorialization initiatives in five additional communities to raise awareness of the crimes and resulting harms and to promote reintegration, reconciliation, and memorialization.

One component of the service-based measures will work to improve the mental health of former child soldiers and their families (who are indirect victims) through psychological counselling services and community engagement.

The Fund will also seek to improve the physical health and mobility of victims through physical rehabilitation and treatment. Experts and doctors will conduct medical evaluations to identify victims living with physical trauma and who require medical treatment. Agreements will then be made with existing clinics, laboratories, and hospitals in the area to provide medical treatment to the victims.

A third component will seek to remedy the socio-economic harm caused to former UPC child soldiers and indirect victims. It will help the victims to “achieve a sustainable livelihood improvement” or “obtain marketable skills to mitigate and overcome the harms caused to direct victims as a result of having been recruited, enlisted, and used as child soldiers.” Activities envisaged include vocational training, training on improved agricultural techniques, and set up of livelihood schemes such as village savings and loan associations.

According to the Fund, each participating victim will be interviewed to discuss and evaluate their individual and family-based livelihood interest, whether vocational, educational, or agricultural in nature.

Implementation of the reparations plan is starting five years after Lubanga’s conviction. Since August 2012 when judges made the initial order on reparations, the prosecution, victims’ lawyers, and the defense filed several appeals against the decision challenging and seeking clarity on many aspects of the decision, including how they would be implemented. In 2015, appeals judges issued an amended order for reparations, tasking the TFV with drawing up and implementing the reparations program. Nonetheless, the process of identifying victims and assessing the harm they suffered is still ongoing and has been subject to criticism from community members.

Judges are yet to determine Lubanga’s monetary liability for reparations.