From 13 – 17 September 2022, the Embassy of Ireland to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) at the International Criminal Court (ICC), with the assistance of the Embassy of Ireland to Uganda and the ICC Country Office in Uganda, led a joint monitoring visit to northern Uganda.
The objective of the monitoring visit was to provide delegates with the opportunity to witness first-hand the transformative work of the TFV in northern Uganda, focusing on the lasting impact of the conflict and the individuals and communities affected by the many atrocities committed. Participating delegates also gained insight into the ongoing TFV’s reparation implementation programmes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as they listened to the experience of three people who received reparation awards in the Lubanga and the Katanga cases. The victims of these cases came to northern Uganda to brief delegates on how they received reparative justice through the ICC, TFV and its implementing partners.
Honourable Norbert Mao, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of Uganda said, “Although the guns have gone silent, the wounds are still deep”. He added, “We highly appreciate this important monitoring visit with so many delegates and we are certain that they will bring back great impressions of Uganda after their personal interactions with the victims of the LRA. It has become apparent that mental health is very important to be addressed. We have to ensure that psychosomatic services among others are continued as some victims will require this assistance to lead a normal life. The work of the Trust Fund for Victims is of utmost important to the thousands of victims in northern Uganda and we hope that the assistance will be prolonged. Without the assistance of the Government of Ireland, this visit would have not been possible, and we shall welcome you again, any time. “
The Chair of the TFV Board of Directors, Minou Tavarez Mirabal, said, “Medical treatment, trauma counselling and livelihood support are life changing services that afford recognition and a form of justice to victims of Rome Statute crimes and redress for the harm they have suffered. The TFV calls for collective efforts to restoring hope, transforming lives and achieving long-term reparative justice for victims”, she added.
Speaking on Ireland's hopes for the visit and support of the TFV's work, H.E. Ambassador Brendan Rogers of Ireland to the Netherlands said: “This visit is the bridge between The Hague and the field. Delegates are now better informed and have seen with their own eyes the impact of the work of the TFV on the ground. We now have a family of supporters of the Fund that can take that support back to The Hague and beyond.”
Participating delegates came to better understand the deeply rooted harm persisting in northern Uganda sixteen years after the LRA conflict and the need to redress this harm. Beneficiaries of the programme called upon the delegates to provide reparative measures more broadly to the victims, their children and communities. Delegates committed to advocate for increased international awareness and support in order to allow the TFV to continue its programmes in northern Uganda, complementing the efforts of the Government of Uganda.
Recalling the commitment to victims and affected communities of atrocity crimes, President of the Assembly of States Parties, Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi, called on States Parties of the Rome Statute to step up providing support to victims. “States Parties should cooperate with the ICC in order to ensure perpetrators of crimes are brought to justice, and the rights and needs of victim survivors are addressed. During my mandate I will do my utmost to promote the important work of the Trust Fund for victims”.
Fourteen States participated in the monitoring visit this year, including the President of the Assembly of the States Parties, and representatives from the government of Australia, Belgium, Chile, Estonia, Germany, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, Tanzania, Uganda, United States, and the European Union. Also, Legal Representatives of Victims in the Ongwen case and civil society organisations participated in the visit.
In 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) were created under the Rome Statute. While the ICC is responsible for trying criminal cases involving the crime of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, the TFV’s 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 reparation and assistance.
To achieve its mission, the TFV fulfils two unique mandates:
- Implementing reparation awards ordered against a convicted person by the ICC.
- Providing assistance to victims and their families in ICC situations through rehabilitative programmes of medical treatment, mental healthcare, and livelihood support.
In Uganda, the Trust Fund for Victims has been implementing its rehabilitation programme since 2008 across 22 districts of northern Uganda. To date, more than 60,000 Ugandans have been rehabilitated from injuries sustained in the armed conflict, and over 350,000 people indirectly benefitted from the programme. In 2022, the TFV has partnership with five locally based organisations to implement activities.