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Experts and Lawyers Propose Collective Reparations and Cash Awards to Ntaganda Victims

Experts who were appointed to advise on the nature of reparations in the Bosco Ntaganda case have suggested a cash award to each victim, as well as collective reparations with individualized components, such as schooling and vocational training, medical and psychological care, and support for income-generating activities.

The recommendations of the experts have received support from victims’ lawyers, who have said that victims expressed a preference for personal cash awards, but also identified a need for collective reparations. The proposed amount to be given to each victim was redacted from documents made public by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Judges will, in a reparations order to be issued next week, determine the nature of the reparations, including whether victims should receive a cash award, and if so, the amount of any such award.

Ntaganda was convicted in 2019 of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed during 2002 and 2003 while he commanded a militia group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The court has received final submissions on reparations from the ICC’s Registry and Trust Fund for Victims, Ntaganda’s defense and victims’ lawyers, as well as independent experts, which will inform the nature and scope of the reparations.

According to the court’s Registry, which has been interviewing victims about their preferred reparations, “a clear trend emerging from the consultation exercise is the consulted individuals’ preference for forms of economic development or financial measures to be awarded individually to redress the harm that they suffered.” The Registry said in its January 15, 2021 final report to judges on reparations that most victims consulted requested economic help, or compensation for education, to buy a plot of land, to build a house, or to rebuild the family house destroyed during the attacks in 2003.

During the Registry’s consultations, some victims proposed collective reparations to benefit their community, such as repairing roads, improving access to drinkable water for their village, a training center for the youth, and access to stable electricity for their communities. Of the victims who were former child soldiers, most proposed an awareness campaign to facilitate their reintegration into their communities.

However the defense has opposed these suggestions saying they are not reparations linked to  harm caused by a crime for which Ntaganda has been convicted, but would instead amount to humanitarian assistance.

“In light of the collective reparations previously ordered by this Court, it would be inadequate and unfitting to grant this type of reparations in the case of Mr. Ntaganda,” the defense argued. “For example, looking at the Lubanga and Katanga cases, the type of reparations put in place to benefit the victims were specifically intended to alleviate harms resulting from the crimes of the convicted person.”

The experts who were appointed by the court to advise on the nature and scope of the reparations recommended, in their first report, a standard reparation package (SRP) for each victim of the attacks, to include a standard compensation amount (SCA) to cover material harm, an amount for livelihood assistance and an amount to cover the moral damage suffered by each victim. According to the experts, the similarity of harm suffered and the large number of expected beneficiaries necessitated such a standardized award.

A second experts’ report proposed that direct victims of rape and sexual violence should be provided with a higher compensation award compared to other victims of the attacks, in order to reflect the aggravating circumstances of sexual violence.

Victims’ lawyer Dmytro Suprun supported the idea of the SRP and SCA awards being ordered, provided the awards are of equal value for all victims as suggested in the experts’ first report. He said the cash awards, as recommended by the experts, should be complemented with collective reparations that have individualized components, such as medical and psychological support, support for income-generating activities, and vocational training.

The experts’ first report stated thatthe SRP would fall into the category of reparations that provide for “a standardized set of benefits for all victims within each category of violations (for example, pillage) or within each type of harm (for example, the loss of livelihood, regardless of the crime that caused it). They suggested that a significant individual component should be included in the combination of the two recommended types of reparations.

Sarah Pellet, also a victims’ lawyer, submitted in December 2020 that former child soldiers “overwhelmingly expressed a preference for individual reparations,” although they would also accept collective reparations with an individual component. She said the financial compensation contained in the SCA corresponds to the wishes and priorities expressed by the former child soldiers.

Pellet said equal treatment of the two categories of victims, the victims of attacks and the former child soldiers, would minimize the risks of the reparations process indirectly aggravating inter-ethnic tensions.  She said such an approach would reflect the fact that different ethnic groups were equally victimized by Ntaganda, although through different types of crimes. The victims of the attacks were primarily from the Lendu community, while the former child soldiers were mainly ethnic Hema.

In the Thomas Lubanga case, ICC judges ordered collective reparations to victims, namely psychological rehabilitation, physical rehabilitation and socio-economic measures. In the Germain Katanga case, an individual symbolic compensation award of $250 USD per victim was ordered, and four collective awards in the form of housing assistance, education assistance, income-generating activities, and psychological rehabilitation.