THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) – The International Criminal Court on Thursday upheld an order granting $10 million in reparations to hundreds of victims of a former warlord from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was the first person arrested by the ICC, a United Nations court based in The Hague. He was found guilty of war crimes in 2012 for using child soldiers and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Proceedings then began to determine victim compensation.
Before a mostly empty courtroom Thursday, Judge Piotr Hofmański sat on the bench alone to read the unanimous verdict, telling the handful of people present that “it is important for trial chambers to provide a clear indication to victims…as to the standard of proof that will apply to the assessment of their eligibility for reparations.”
Under the Rome Statute, which established the ICC in 2002, victims may apply for reparations, either as individuals or collectively. The signatories to the agreement contribute to a trust fund for victims, which can provide compensation when the perpetrator lacks the resources to do so.
The judges have previously acknowledged that Lubanga doesn’t have money to pay the reparations and they will have to come from the trust fund.
“The concept of reparative justice, the idea that a transfer of a valuable resource might be able to in some way make amends for an injury suffered, has a long history and in many cultures is often considered to be an essential component of justice,” said Kirsten Fisher, a researcher whose work at the University of Saskatchewan focuses on ethics and international law.
Lubanga’s is the first case before the ICC to make it to the reparations stage. In 2017, the court ordered $10 million in compensation to his victims.
The ruling set off a flurry of procedural debates between the ICC and the trust fund. In the initial ruling for compensation, the court asked the trust fund to assess the eligibility of victims for reparations, which the fund felt was unnecessary. That set off a second dispute about whether the perpetrator would have a right to evaluate the assessments, which could compromise the victim’s privacy.
Thursday’s ruling focused on the arguments made by Lubanga’s defense, who claimed that the amount was too large for the scope of his crimes and that the initial reparations order wrongly included ineligible and unidentified victims.
But the ICC found “that the role of the trial chamber is to aim to impose an award that takes into account the circumstances of the case before it, not necessarily limited to the requests that have been brought before it.”
Lubanga was born in what is now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he founded the Union of Congolese Patriots, or UPC, a rebel group accused of a number of atrocities during the Second Congo War.
In 1998, fighting broke out only a year after the cessation of the First Congo War. Eastern parts of the country, which had long been unstable, fell into chaos following the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, which spilled over the border. The UPC was one of several militia groups in the mineral-rich region.
Though a peace treaty was signed in 2003, hostilities have continued.