Thomas Lubanga is Guilty… Now what?
Now that the International Criminal Court has delivered it’s first-ever conviction, there is hope that the victims and survivors of the war crimes committed by Thomas Lubanga Dyilo will receive reparations for their suffering.
After a prosecuted person has been declared guilty of the crimes charged before the Court, the ICC has the power to order a criminal perpetrator to pay reparation to a victim who has suffered as a result of the perpetrator’s criminal actions. Though there is a long standing history of aggressor states being required to pay reparations to other states (e.g. Treaty of Versailles), the need to ensure that compensation is delivered at the level of the individual perpetrator/victim has only been recently formalized international forums like the ICC and United Nations.
With the conviction of Lubanga, the ICC will commence it’s first-ever reparations proceedings. Throughout this process there will be many complex ethical, legal, and political sensitivities that will need to be navigated. These are outlined in an interview between a Congolese activist with years of experience working with victims in the DRC about the issue of reparations and Olivia Bueno, the International Refugee Rights Initiative’s Associate Director.
The issues outlined in the article above are also reflected in the experiences of other conflict survivors and victims. In 2005, the ICC delivered it’s first ever arrest warrants to five leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group based in Northern Uganda. To date, no arrests have been made and two of the suspects are presumed dead. With limited prospect for the remaining suspects to be tried in a timely manner, there are questions about what will be done for alleged victims to access to justice, specifically reparations, that are outlined by the Justice and Reconciliation Project.
Similar questions exist for survivors and victims of the 1994 Rwandan, many of whom have not had access to reparations through the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda or through the locally-based gacaca courts. Within the last month the mandates of both of these institutions have ended and no clear plan is in place to issue reparations.
As Canadian or international advocates we can stand alongside survivors in solidarity by calling on our governments to support the reparations process. By working with both international institutions like the ICC and with local actors and mechanisms (see the above articles for examples), Canada and the international community can encourage the Congolese, Rwandan, and Ugandan governments to establish national reparations policies that will be effective and responsive.