ICC Victims Trust Fund Board Holds First Meeting

Jordan Times
April 21, 2004

The Victims Trust Fund (VTF) board of the International Criminal Court (ICC) held its first meeting in The Hague on Tuesday with the aim of making a lasting contribution to the process of justice initiated by the court. Seeking to make reparations to victims and their families, the VTF, one of the first trust funds to develop alongside a court, will benefit victims of crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the ICC, namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and, at a later date, aggression.

Her Majesty Queen Rania, who was named to the ICC's first VTF board of directors in September 2003, attended yesterday's meetings, which discussed "The Rights of Victims under the Rome Statute" and "The Trust Fund for Victims." The four members of the VTF board selected alongside Queen Rania include two Nobel Peace Prize winners: (scar Arias Sanchez (former president of Costa Rica), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (former Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa), Tadeusz Mazowiecki (former prime minister of Poland), and Simone Veil (former French minister of health and president of the European Parliament). All 92 nations that ratified the Rome Statute establishing the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal voted for the international figures to serve three-year terms on the VTF board of directors. The ICC will prosecute cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed after July 1, 2002, but will step in only when countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice themselves. It is the culmination of a campaign for a permanent war crimes tribunal that began with the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

One of the first tasks of the VTF board of directors will be to decide on criteria for decision making with regard to recipients, awards, and the nature of reparations. These criteria will then require approval by the Assembly of States Parties, the overall governing body of the ICC, where all parties to the Rome Statute have a representative. Upon this approval, the VTF will have the authority to begin distributing funds.

While the ICC was established as an important mechanism to bring perpetrators of international crimes to justice, the Rome Statute — the treaty that established the ICC — recognised that millions of victims of crimes against humanity have been ignored. It was for this purpose that the VTF was created, to ensure that justice should not be only about punishment of the perpetrators, but must also help restore dignity to the victims. At the ICC, victims have the opportunity to claim reparation against the perpetrators — and may be awarded compensation or other forms of reparation. The VTF will help the court distribute awards to victims and will also step in to help the many victims who would otherwise not be able to receive reparation — because the persons who committed the horrific crimes have no money or have evaded the reach of the court altogether.

The VTF, like the ICC, will operate independently from the United Nations. Internationally, representatives of many governments and non-governmental organisations actively contributed to the debates on the court and played a major role in its creation. Queen Rania returned to Amman after a one-day working trip during which she attended the proceedings of the meetings, which brought together judges, legal experts as well, representatives from nongovernmental organisations.

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