The Road to Reparations for Victims in Katanga Case

In this post for the ISS, Hope deferred: abrupt end to the Katanga case fails victims, I reflected on the effect of withdrawal of appeal in the Katanga case on the child soldier victims and victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

The ICC Trial Chamber II seized of the Katanga affair has issued a scheduling order inviting states and other interested persons to file submissions relating to the types and modalities of reparations for the 305 victims participating in the case. These are the victims of the charges that Katanga was found guilty of and excludes the category of victims mentioned earlier.

While it is regrettable that some victims will be left out of the reparations process, it is commendable that the ICC is welcoming observations on how best reparations can be administered to the victims who ‘qualify’ for the awards.

It would be remiss of a state or other interested persons offering any observations and recommendations to the ICC not to speak to or engage with the victims themselves. From consultations with victims in other situation countries, these individuals and groups are very clear on what they want for reparations. They do not need ‘outsiders’ to speak on their behalf as to what is appropriate as a remedy. I also do not buy into the idea of managing the expectations of victims on what type of reparations they can obtain. There is absolutely nothing wrong for victims to express their aspirations of getting out of victimhood much as everyone can and must hope for opportunities for a better living. In fact what must be managed is the reparations process, specifically individuals and organisations that deal with victims. Any prescriptive ideas to victims on their salvation from a pathetic situation belong to the museum of past societal ills such as apartheid, slavery and colonialism.

The ICC Registry has published its recommendations. The report supports the conclusion that victims do not want hand-outs that will be depleted within a short space of time. Emphasis by the victims themselves is on skills-building and other avenues that would allow them to ‘fish’ for and feed themselves. Interestingly, the 305 victims are reported as not being interested in symbolic forms of reparations such as memorialisation efforts or publicising and disseminating the ICC judgement in the Katanga case. This finding is nothing short of a slap in the face to transitional justice fundamentalists. Often we hear of noble projects in these and similar areas but the truth is that the dividends of the projects only serve and feed project workers and do little to meet the rightful demands of victims.

Other organisations will soon follow with their recommendations to the ICC. The fine line between meeting the direct and stated demands of and by the victims; and the perceived and felt needs of other for these victims is what the Court must dissect. The onus remains with the Trial Chamber to administer reparative justice to the victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo.