Our partner Radio Canal Révélation, a radio station based in Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), prepared this article as part of an interactive radio project on justice and peace, which encourages debate on issues related to justice in the DRC. The views conveyed in this article belong to the people interviewed and do not necessarily represent the views of all the community members, or all of the victims.
The victims of crimes committed by Bosco Ntaganda have welcomed the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) trial chamber, which ordered a preliminary mapping of potential new beneficiaries of reparations. However, they are concerned about how much time has passed since the crimes and request concrete action on reparations after so many years.
“I appreciate the decision, but I regret that the ICC only makes promises to the victims, and it has not made good on those promises for over 10 years. There obviously has to be a process, but this is not fair because other victims are dead,” said Patrick Chako, Chairman of the Civil Society of the Lendu, in the South Walendu Jatsi sector, in Bambu Mines, 45 km north of the city of Bunia.
The ICC judges ordered the court’s Registry to draw up a list of potential new beneficiaries of reparations in the case against Bosco Ntaganda, the former Congolese commander found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in July last year. According to the judges, this assessment will allow for fair and expeditious conduct of the reparations proceedings.
“They have made too many promises, we don’t believe them anymore. They should take concrete actions for us to believe them. There are no hospitals, no schools, no clean water here anymore during this epidemic… And we have grown old. We are tired of using hoes for farming… We want tractors in our villages,” a female victim in Chuja, 60 km north of Bunia, told our team in a harsh tone.
“They have caused us a lot of pain. There are always reports when they come here on an assignment, they write a lot… They should tell us loud and clear if the money meant for the victims has disappeared in Europe. Otherwise they just should give me an exact date for reparations.”
“And if there is a new mapping, then we should quickly get the documents to fill out. I had my skull harmed during the so-called chika na mikono [capture and kill] operation, and I live with eight victim families in Chuja. Because of epidemics we may die even before receiving this reparation,” said another victim, anonymously.
Reaction of the Union of Congolese Patriots, Once Led by Ntaganda
From the standpoint of the Union of Congolese Patriots(UPC) Political Committee, this new decision may impair the rights of the defense.
“We’re at a loss. Those who appeared [before the court] are not recognized as victims, and now they want to recruit others, whose version of the facts has not been checked against that of Mr. Ntaganda yet? This impairs the right of defense,” said Pele Kaswara, the Chairman of the UPC Political Committee.
An Organization’s Fear
The Organization for Human Rights Promotion (OPDH) fears that certain ill-meaning persons will take advantage of the situation and claim victim status.
“It will be difficult to identify the real victims, because the actions were committed over 16 years ago. Special attention should be paid to the selection criteria for these new victims,” said Nathan Mugisa, OPDH coordinator in Ituri.
Between February and October 2020, the defense, the Office of the Prosecutor, the victims’ representatives, and others must submit comments on reparations. The judges will then issue a reparation order.