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Landmark order of the International Criminal Court on reparations for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in the Ntaganda Case

Press Release / Democratic Republic of the Congo 8 March 2021

Date and time

01:00 01:00

Location

The Scales of Justice with a woman's figure

Geneva, 8 March 2021 

The International Criminal Court today issued its first order ever on reparations for victims of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). The Global Survivors Fund (GSF) welcomes this landmark decision, one of major importance for survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country where sexual violence was used as a weapon of war at large scale and where reparation needs have so far not been met. 

GSF values the recognition in the International Criminal Court (ICC) order that victims of sexual violence should be considered a priority. It now encourages the ICC Trust Fund for Victims to develop its draft implementation plan within three months as requested by the judges, and in consultation with victims. GSF also encourages a proactive identification process of victims to make sure that more victims are recognized as beneficiaries and benefit from reparations in the present case. 

Dr Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and co-founder of GSF, declared: “Today’s ICC decision is of crucial importance as it sets an important precedent, recognising the rights to reparation and the needs of victims of conflict-related sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It recalls the urgent need to address impunity for all perpetrators of such heinous acts and to provide the victims with the much-needed reparations.” 

Norbert Wühler, a GSF Board member said: “For the first time in international criminal proceedings, today’s order sets out important principles and standards of reparations for victims of CRSV. These principles are meant to ensure that these reparations are transformative, long-term, and meaningful to victims.” 

The ICC order acknowledges the multi-faceted harms suffered by victims of rape and sexual slavery in a conflict which started almost 20 years ago and whose effects they continue to suffer. It sets an important precedent in the recognition of the transgenerational harm and of children born out of rape as direct victims, paving the way for reparations for them as well. The order also insists on the necessary victim-centered, gender-inclusive and sensitive approach to guide the design and implementation of reparations at the Court. This includes consulting victims on their needs and wishes at all stages of the reparation process, an approach which is at the core of GSF’s work. 

In its order, the ICC opted for collective reparations with individualised components that respond to the specific needs and current situation of victims. It emphasized that these reparations should be transformative, prompt, and meaningful and designed in accordance with victims’ wishes which is “to receive awards aiming at supporting sustainable and long-term livelihood and well-being, rather than simply addressing their needs on a short-term basis”. GSF also praises the guidance by the ICC on the modalities of reparations ordered, i.e. restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, and satisfaction.  

Echoing recent declarations made by national authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Karine Bonneau, Senior advisor and Project coordinator at GSF, stated: “It is important that this reparation order is now implemented in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the support of the government”, adding that “a further step would be the creation of a national specific Reparation Fund.” 

Context

Accused of 13 counts of war crimes and five crimes against humanity committed in the region of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Bosco Ntaganda, a Congolese militia leader was sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment by the ICC in November 2019. Ntaganda’s responsibility has been recognised for the massacres and atrocities committed in the operations of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UCP) and the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) in 2002-2003. He was also the leader of several armed rebel groups, including the M23. He has been the first person to be convicted of rape and sexual slavery by the ICC in the DRC situation.  

Background

The Global Survivors Fund (“GSF”) was launched in October 2019 by the Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad. Its mission is to enhance access to reparations for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence around the globe. This responds to a gap long identified by survivors which complements efforts to prevent sexual violence, for justice and holistic care. GSF acts to provide interim reparative measures in situations where the states or other parties responsible for the violence are unable or unwilling to meet their responsibilities. GSF advocates for duty bearers as well as the international community to develop and implement reparations programmes. GSF also guides states and civil society by providing expertise and technical support for designing reparations programmes. GSF works globally and has its secretariat in Geneva. GSF survivor-centric approach is the cornerstone of its work. 

GSF works in pursuit of justice and reparations for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. In partnership with the Panzi Foundation, it leads a pilot project for interim reparative measures for survivors of conflict related sexual violence in the Kivus and in Kasai, in DRC. 

In May 2020, Trial Chamber VI of the ICC appointed Karine Bonneau as well as Norbert Wühler, a GSF Board Member, to assist it as independent experts on issues related to the scope, extent, and appropriate modalities of reparations in the Ntaganda case. A copy of the experts’ report is accessible online

For media queries, please contact:  
Maud Scelo, Communications officer at the GSF 
mscelo@globalsurvivorsfund.org  
+32 460 752 466 

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