By Wairagala Wakabi
The International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) has published a plan for implementing reparation awards to 297 victims of crimes committed by former Congolese militia leader German Katanga. According to an order by ICC judges, each victim will receive an individual symbolic compensation of US$250, while housing and educational assistance, income-generating activities, and psychological rehabilitation will form the collective reparations.
In March 2014, Katanga was found guilty of being an accessory to war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from a February 2003 attack on civilians in Bogoro, a village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In May of that year, he was sentenced to 12 years in jail. Last March, judges issued an order for reparations to victims of his crimes. Since Katanga had been found indigent, judges asked the TFV to indicate whether it would undertake the payment of the awards.
In compliance with a directive by judges, the TFV has drafted a plan that shows how it would implement the reparations awards. The implementation plan will benefit only the 297 victims identified in the judges’ order. However, victims who live far from Bogoro may not benefit from collective reparations.
Currently, of the 297 victims, 265 reside in Bogoro and nearby areas like Bunia and Kasenyi. For 17 victims residing in a refugee camp in Uganda, it is not clear if they can own land or a house due to their refugee status. However, the TFV is looking into practicalities of implementing similar reparations modalities in Congo and Uganda.
Meanwhile, the TFV has proposed providing each of 15 victims who were resettled in Europe and the USA with a symbolic monetary sum in addition to the US$250 individual compensation award. Monetary compensation is not among the collective reparations modalities, but the TFV says it should exceptionally “be provided to compensate for the fact that these beneficiaries will not have access to any of the collective reparations to which they have an established right.” According to TFV, it is not feasible to provide any of the collective reparations modalities to these victims.
Under the plan, housing assistance could entail constructing a home with basic household furnishings, expanding a current home, purchasing a plot of land, or assisting with rent payments. Education assistance could include payment of primary or secondary school fees and related costs for victims’ children.
Meanwhile, income-generating activities may include payment for university-level enrollment and tuition, and vocational training in small business enterprises such as dressmaking and taxi driving, animal husbandry, agriculture, and fishing. Training in developing business plans and provision of business kits—such as sewing machines and clothes-making materials, or livestock, seeds, and farming tools—are others.
Under psychological rehabilitation, the TFV proposes individual trauma-based counseling sessions and group counseling sessions.
The TFV has created different categories representing proportionality between the collective reparations awards and the differing degrees and types of harm suffered by individual victims. All 297 victims suffered psychological harm from the Bogoro attack, and this harm is covered by the individual symbolic compensation of US$250 across the five categories of harm.
The categories are loss of home and livestock; loss of home or equivalent material loss; loss of an immediate family member; loss of personal affairs and minor material loss; and general moral harm.
In terms of income-generating activities, victims that suffered extensive family loss (more than five immediate family members) would get two cows and a veterinary kit, whereas families that suffered only general harm would get one cow.
Victims who do not have minor dependents and who would not benefit from education assistance may choose to “top up” the modalities of housing assistance or income-generating activities. Similarly, victims that need to support more children in school might forego housing assistance or income-generating activities so as to have more of their children benefit from education.
A financial adviser will be available to advise victims on means to swiftly and confidentially receive and potentially use their US$250 award.
There are ongoing appeals by the prosecution, the defense, and legal representatives of victims against the reparations order. Katanga contests the level of financial compensation ordered by judges and his financial liability, while victims’ lawyers are appealing for reparations to be offered to a larger number of victims.