“The TFV helped me. I was really mentally disturbed after all the horrors that happened to us. I would take off all my clothes and walk around naked. I couldn’t even eat. Since I started getting help from the TFV, I am well. I am healthy. Now, I dress up.” – Esther, TFV Assistance Programme Beneficiary in Uganda.
Since 1986, Uganda has been involved in a conflict in the northern region between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). According to a United Nations estimate, the LRA killed more than 100,000 people, abducted 60,000 to 100,000 children and displaced more than 2.5 million civilians in four African countries from 1987 to 2012.
In 2004, the Ugandan government asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to address violations of international criminal law committed on its territory. In 2005, the ICC issued arrest warrants against leaders of the LRA. The suspect Mr. Ongwen surrendered in 2015. The competent Trial Chamber will deliver his verdict in February 2021.
In 2008, the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) identified 18 projects to focus as part of assistance mandate activities for Ugandan victims within the jurisdiction of the ICC. The TFV notified the Pre-Trial Chamber that it would conduct such programmes with a view to providing:
- Psychological support and material support for ex-child soldiers, abducted persons, and victims of sexual and gender-based violence;
- Physical rehabilitation and psychological support for mutilated victims, physical injuries, and victims of sexual and gender-based violence complemented by material support;
- Physical rehabilitation and psychological support for handicapped victims and victims of mental trauma coupled with material support;
- Psychological support and material support for victimized villages and traumatized communities.
Delivering assistance to victims in Uganda
The TFV has been implementing assistance programmes in Uganda since 2008, providing medical and psychological rehabilitation and livelihood support across 22 districts. In 2017, a second phase of programme was ongoing in Uganda with a total of 43,284 beneficiaries with an additional 6,006 direct beneficiaries in 2018. The assistance programme in Uganda was renewed in April 2019 with a new five year programming cycle with implementing partners. From April to December 2019, the number of direct beneficiaries was 5,257.
The TFV appreciates the support that local Ugandan authorities have extended to the programme over these many years.
“Trauma needs consistent services. It means that the client needs to see the therapist and the counsellor at least 4, 5, 6, 10 or 15 sessions. No organizations before the Trust Fund for Victims could support our work. We’d never had this opportunity before.” – Gabriele Marini, Implementing Partner NGO Centre for Victims of Torture
Uganda Assistance Programme Locations
TFV programmatic coverage across the conflict-affected districts of northern Uganda includes:
Otuke, Apac, Alebtong, Lira, Amolatar, Dokolo, Kwania, Gulu, Omoro, Kitgum, Lamwo, Kole, Oyam, Agago, Nwoya, Amuru, Pader, Kapyelebong, Amuria, Kaberamaido, Soroti and Adjumani Districts.
Implementing Partners and Project Roles (December 2020)
1. AVSI Foundation
Capacity building, advocacy, and physical rehabilitation
Location: Otuke, Apac, Alebtong, Amolatar, Lira, Gulu, Omoro, Kitgum, Lamwo, Kole, Oyam, Agago, Nwoya, Amuru, Pader, Dokolo, Kwania, and Adjumani Districts
Duration: April 2019 – April 2024
Medical rehabilitation to disabled victims of war in northern Uganda through provision of prosthetics, orthotics, and physiotherapy; improve the quality of life and social inclusion for physically disabled victims of war through psychosocial rehabilitation in northern Uganda through identification and assessment of amputates, provision of capacity building to social workers, community sensitization, and patient follow up.
2. Center for Children in Vulnerable Situations (CCVS)
Centre for expertise in psychological support services and well-being of war affected children, families, and communities.
Location: Lira, Oyam, and Alebtong,
Duration: April 2019 – April 2024
Psychological rehabilitation services to war-affected children, youth, and adults with a focus on direct war victims, through provision of psychological counseling and supporting the rebuilding of social relationships and networks and increasing the local capacity and know-how of key community stake holders in providing basic psychosocial support within communities, schools, and health centers; community sensitisation through local radio stations programme “Healing our Wounds”.
3. Center for Victims of Torture (CVT)
Treating the mental health needs through counseling and capacity building.
Locations: Gulu,, Omoro and Nwoya Districts
Duration: April 2019 – April 2024
Provide survivors of LRA-inflicted torture and violent trauma with effective mental health rehabilitation services through on-site mental health clinical mentoring as well as providing intensive and on-going clinical supervision and training to the counselors in partner NGOs; creating a cadre of mental health professionals and paraprofessionals necessary for sustainability of mental health trauma rehabilitation in Uganda.
4. Health Right International (HRI)
Comprehensive medical and psychosocial support for the war victims
Locations: Otuke, Apac, Alebtong, Amolatar, Lira, Gulu, Omoro, Kitgum, Lamwo, Kole, Oyam, Agago, Nwoya, Amuru, Pader, Dokolo, Amuria, Kaberamaido, Soroti, and Adjumani Districts
Duration: April 2019 – April 2024
Comprehensive medical treatment, physical and psychological rehabilitation services for victims and survivors of war; empower and promote survivors and local community participation in support of recovery; through surgical and treatment interventions to relieve suffering and the wounds of war; response to the needs of victims including SGBV survivors in the communities and offer training to local stakeholders.
5. Transcultural Psychological Organisation (TPO)
Provision of integrated physical and psychological rehabilitation to victims
Location: Gulu, Pader, and Agago Districts
Duration: April 2019 – April 2024
Provide physical and psychological rehabilitation services to victim survivors; improve access to rehabilitative, surgical and medical services through capacity building for social workers and developing referral pathways among service providers. The project integrates a component of livelihood improvement of war survivors.
Assistance and Justice for Victims
How the Rome Statute and the Trust Fund for Victims’ Rehabilitative Programme Fosters Justice
In 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC or Court) and the Trust Fund for Victims (Trust Fund or TFV) were created under the Rome Statute. While the ICC is responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminal cases involving the crime of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, the Trust Fund mission is to respond to the harm resulting from the crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC by ensuring the rights of victims and their families through the provision of reparations and assistance.
To achieve its mission, the Trust Fund fulfils two unique mandates:
- Implementing reparations awards ordered against a convicted person by the Court, and,
- Providing assistance to victims and their families in ICC situations through programmes of psychological rehabilitation, physical rehabilitation, and material support.
The Trust Fund works with locally based implementing partners (non-governmental organizations) in the situation countries under the assistance mandate, to provide healing services to victims who have suffered harm from the most serious international crimes, regardless of the question of who the perpetrator was of those crimes.
TFV Uganda Programme Overview
In 1986 Uganda became embroiled in a conflict in the northern region between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The United Nations estimates that more than 100,000 Ugandans were killed in the conflict, an estimated 60,000-100,000 children and adults were abducted as combatants to the conflict, and more than 2.5 million people were displaced from their homes in the central African region between 1987 and 2012.
In 2004, the Ugandan government referred the situation in northern Uganda to the ICC to investigate violations of the Rome Statute on its territory. The ICC issued arrest warrants against five leaders of the LRA in 2005. Dominic Ongwen was taken into ICC custody in 2015 in the Central African Republic. Mr. Ongwen was convicted of 61 crimes against humanity and war crimes in February 2021 and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. The Ongwen case entered into the reparation phase of proceeding in May 2021 with the solicitation of reparation observations. Mr. Ongwen has appealed his conviction and decision is currently pending before the Appeals Chamber at the ICC.
In Uganda, the Trust Fund began implementing an assistance programme in 2008 across the conflict affected region. The assistance provided to victims of the conflict between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army includes medical rehabilitation, psychological rehabilitation, and livelihood support. Activities are conducted in the conflict affected region of greater northern Uganda. To date, between 2008 and 2021, the Trust Fund has assisted more than 60,000 direct beneficiairies and well over 350,000 indirect beneficiaries (family and community members).
The Trust Fund would like to appreciate the support that local authorities have extended to the programme over these many years. The Trust Fund realises that there are still victims of the conflict that continue to endure harm from conflict crimes and the Trust Fund reaffirms its support for victim rehabilitation projects. In April 2019 the Trust Fund launched a new five-year programmatic commitment to fund rehabilitation projects across northern Uganda.
Justice and Healing are integral aspects to one another and the Trust Fund is the healing part of international criminal justice. Together the ICC and the Trust Fund are meant to close the impunity gap as well as the healing gap, delivering tangible reparative value to victims, families, and communities.
The resilience of victims and their ability to overcome unimaginable harm should be the foundation for a just and peaceful society, built on shared trust and confidence in the future.
How do we implement rehabilitation?
Trust Fund assistance programming is conducted in partnership with NGO implementing partners including – Ugandan NGOs, International NGOs, Faith-based Organizations, Cultural Institutions, and Academic Institutions. Over the course of the Trust Fund’s programming in Uganda from 2008 to the present, the Trust Fund has partnered with more than 25 different organizations providing rehabilitative assistance to victims across more than 22 districts of the conflict affected region of greater northern Uganda.
Trust Fund programming is providing rehabilitation assistance to victims across more than 22 districts of the conflict affected region, from Soroti west to Adjumani in the east and from the shores of Lake Kyoga north to the border with South Sudan.
Please take a moment to appreciate the magnitude and depth of Trust Fund assistance, rehabilitation projects, in the life of victims and in relation to other Court activities.
To date, between 2008 and 2021, more than 60,000 Ugandan victims have been rehabilitated and directly benefited from Trust Fund programming. These victims have substantively benefited from Trust Fund assistance programming, including rehabilitation efforts such as surgery and medical treatment, trauma counselling and psychosocial services, and livelihood support.
The number of victims that have been rehabilitated through Trust Fund assistance is more than the number of victims that engaged the Court through other avenues – participation, investigations, or witnesses combined. The tangible impact of Trust Fund activities on the lives and wellbeing of victims is tremendous particularly when considering the number of people, the budget, and the size of the Trust Fund in relation to the other organs and entities of the Court. The reach and scope of Trust Fund assistance is an extraordinary good news story for the Court, and for the mission of the Rome Statute system.
Victim rehabilitation and assistance are life changing events and services provided to victims. These are not minor injuries that we are addressing. These are injuries endured during conflict, inflicted on civilians during war, some of these injuries are physically or mentally debilitating and life altering.
- Medical treatment – Plastic surgery for facial disfigurement and burned victims, removing bullets and bomb fragments, providing artificial limbs for amputees, physiotherapy, post-operative care and follow-up, chronic pain management, and specialized services for SGBV survivors such as fistula repair.
- Trauma counselling – Provision of clinical counselling services for individuals, families, and small groups. Trauma counselling to respond to mental health disorders such as PTSD, depression, anxiety disorders, etc.
As one victim noted, “the counselling helped me to settle my heart and my mind from the harm I endured and atrocities I witnessed in the war”.
In addition to counselling services the Trust Fund supports psycho-social programming to promote community reconciliation initiatives. Peer support group activities include music, dance, drama, and sports activities promoting healing and social cohesion. Psychosocial activities also include peace building, community sensitization campaigns and workshops, radio broadcasts concerning topics such acceptance, mitigating stigma (SGBV, child soldiers, PWD), and promoting integration within communities.
- Livelihood support - to victims that lost everything during the conflict because of attacks on their homes and villages, multiple displacements, destruction of home and property, abduction, and loss of education and livelihood opportunities. We support victims through village savings and loan associations (VSLA), income generating activities, vocational training, animal husbandry, and improved agriculture initiatives. Livelihood initiatives aim to revitalize local economies and rehabilitate household livelihoods.
These are life changing rehabilitative services that afford a degree of justice to victims of crimes. That assists in their recovery from criminal harm. Many victims have stated that rehabilitation for their injury and help from the Trust Fund is a form of justice for them and their family.
As far back as 2010, in the period before the Kampala Review Conference the Trust Fund surveyed several thousand beneficiaries on their views of justice and rehabilitation. They indicated that receiving assistance was a form of justice to them, that their cry for help and attention to their problems was heard by the Trust Fund / ICC and we responded in a tangible manner to relieve their suffering. The government did not. But the Trust Fund at the ICC did and to those victims that was justice, the most justice they had ever experienced.
In many instances the Trust Fund is the only organization providing this type of rehabilitation to victims in the situation, without the Trust Fund more than 60,000 Ugandans and tens of thousands of victims in the DRC, CAR, Mali, and Ivory Coast would still be suffering from their war injuries.
An assistance programme is not humanitarian support it is about vindicating victims’ rights to a remedy and rendering valuable rehabilitation to victims before the ICC, within the jurisdiction of the Rome Statute.
Between 2008 and 2021 the Trust Fund has contributed an estimated €12.5 million euros toward victim rehabilitation assistance programming across the conflict affected region of greater northern Uganda. In 2019 the Trust Fund initiated a new five-year programming commitment in partnership with 5 NGO implementing partners.
The continued financial support and investment in assistance programming is absolutely worth it and necessary for victims in the situations, without which they would continue in their suffering and never finding justice.
The work of victim rehabilitation continues and we encourage all supporters and donors to pledge their support and to contribute towards Trust Fund assistance programming in Uganda.
The Trust Fund realises that there are still victims of the conflict that continue to endure harm from conflict crimes and the Trust Fund reaffirms its support for victim assistance and rehabilitation projects. The resilience of victims and their ability to overcome unimaginable harm should be the foundation for a just and peaceful society, built on shared trust and confidence in the future.
Impact in 2021
In 2021 the Trust Fund assistance programme in Uganda provide rehabilitation services to 8,692 direct beneficiaries, individual Ugandans, that either received medical treatment or surgery, mental healthcare such as counselling, and livelihood support.
Of the 8,692 victims rehabilitated in 2021: 1,033 were survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, 2,351 participated in livelihood/VSLA activities, 3,571 received medical treatment or surgery, 2,105 participated in peacebuilding initiatives, and 4,720 received mental healthcare such as counselling.
The TFV depends on support from States Parties, private donors and technical and financial partners of all continents to continue bringing hope to Ugandan survivors. Join us in helping victims of crimes against humanity in the Ugandan civil war to move forward from the tragedies they’ve endured for over 30 years.