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Ntaganda Reparations: Judges Appoint Four Experts but Withhold Their Identities

Trial Chamber VI at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has appointed four experts to advise on the nature and scope of reparations in the Bosco Ntaganda case. However, the court redacted the identities of the experts in the announcement of their appointment.

The selected experts will start work immediately and provide a report to judges by August 28, 2020. The defense, prosecution, victims’ lawyers, and the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) will have up to October 30, 2020 to respond to the expert report and raise any other issues that judges should consider before they issue the reparations order.

Last December, the chamber asked the court’s Registry to provide a list of proposed experts on issues relevant to the reparations proceedings. In appointing the experts – two men and two women – the chamber said it considered their background and areas of expertise and the benefits of having a multidisciplinary team that includes knowledge of the local context, to ensure their report is comprehensive.

The first expert, who heads an unnamed organization, has previously worked with victims of sexual violence in an unnamed country. She also worked on a program on sexual crimes in the DRC, where she documented obstacles to reparations for victims of crimes in that country. The second expert is an obstetrician and gynecologist who has treated victims of sexual violence and has experience on a medico-legal approach to reparations for conflict-related sexual violence.

The third expert has 30 years of experience working with communities in Ituri, the district where Ntaganda committed the convicted crimes. His experience includes working with community leaders, although the chamber did not state his area of work. The fourth expert is a lawyer with over 30 years of experience in reparations, restitution and claims programs, and international dispute settlement.

According to the chamber, the defense objected to the appointment of the third expert, arguing that his neutrality had been affected by his previous work with some communities of the victims of some of the crimes for which Ntaganda was convicted. However, judges rejected this objection, noting that this individual’s knowledge, including of some affected victim communities, is likely to facilitate the completion of the experts’ report, particularly in circumstances where travel to the DRC may be difficult.

The experts’ report will cover Ntaganda’s scope of liability; the scope, extent, and evolution of the harm suffered by direct and indirect victims, including the long-term consequences of the crimes on the affected communities, and the potential cost of repair. The report will also address sexual violence, in particular sexual slavery, and its consequences on direct and indirect victims, and it will cover the appropriate modalities of reparations.

Last July, Trial Chamber VI found Ntaganda guilty of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity that he committed during 2002 and 2003, while serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) militia. He was convicted, among other crimes, for sexual slavery and rape, including of child soldiers who served within the FPLC; murder; persecution; and recruitment, enlisting, and use of children in armed conflict.

The chamber asked the experts to advise on the types of harm that should be remedied on a priority basis and the types of collective reparations that could benefit victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) who may not be easily identified due to the stigma attached to these crimes.

Defense lawyers submitted that judges should not request the experts to address the scope of Ntaganda’s liability because the chamber was well equipped and capable of assessing Ntaganda’s liability. However, judges stated that the decision on the amount of Ntaganda’s liability would be based on the extent of the harm suffered by the victims and the cost of repairing it. In assessing these elements, they said, the chamber may seek the assistance of the experts.

Meanwhile, Sarah Pellet, who represents former child soldiers that are participating in the case,  had proposed that because the court had already received numerous reports on reparations in other cases before the ICC, Trial Chamber VI should refer to those reports rather than request new reports.

Similarly, Dmytro Suprun, who represents victims of attacks, submitted that, instead of appointing experts, the chamber could utilize the expertise provided by four experts in the Jean-Pierre Bemba case. He said doing so “would avoid incurring additional cost and time as well as avoid raising expectations among the local community” who would be contacted by the new team of experts.

Both victims’ legal teams proposed that if judges went ahead to appoint experts, they should be very familiar with the 2002-2003 conflict in Ituri and the current situation in the area.

In its submissions, the TFV said, if appointed, the experts would add value to existing in-house expertise on harm resulting from SGBV crimes and could offer advice on the adoption of reparations principles concerning victims of such crimes.