ICC: “NO REPARATION BEFORE GUILTY VERDICT”

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Ms. Maria Mabinty Kamara of the ICC in Gulu-Uganda on 16th July 2015.

GULU-UGANDA: A senior officer of The Hague based, International Criminal Court (ICC), has clarified that the court does not offer reparations to victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity until after the court have passed a guilty verdict against the perpetrator.

Ms. Maria Mabinty Kamara, the Outreach Coordinator for Uganda and Kenya in the Public Information and Documentation Section of ICC, told a meeting of stakeholders on ICC including the media, that ICC does not pay reparations to individual victims but to the community as a whole and that money is spent on projects which benefit all.

“Reparations are paid only at the end of trials and after guilty verdict.” She said, at Churchill Courts Hotel in Gulu Municipality on Tuesday 14th July 2015, during preparations to celebrate the 17th anniversary of the Court, which is celebrated annually on 17th July.

She was responding to the concern of a victim of the Northern Uganda insurgencies, including that of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebellion, which spanned from 1986 to 2006, that it seems the ICC is only interested in giving justice to the victims of Lukodi-a village in Bungatira sub-county in Gulu district, a few minutes’ drive from Gulu town.

The LRA massacred over 46 innocent civilians between 19th and 20th May 2004 in Lukodi’s eleven villages. It is believed that, the indicted and captured LRA commander Dominic Ongwen, masterminded the massacre in Lukodi in 2004. This is the single incident for which Ongwen is in custody at The Hague waiting for trials to begin.

Mr. Akena Jimmy, who is a land mine survivor from Land Mine Survivors’ Association in Gulu, wondered why the ICC was working at Lukodi only, yet atrocities were committed throughout the region.

“If the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, dies in the bush, will those others not get Justice? Akena questioned.

Ms. Kamara said the ICC’s main work is to make sure that, ”impunity is no longer the game”.

 She said that other victims of the war benefited from 18 projects sponsored by the Court’s Trust Fund for Victims whereby over 40,000 individual victims benefitted through Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) like AVSI and CARE International.

“One of the mandates of ICC is to provide support to other victims through NGO’s like AVSI and CARE International. Have you not seen victims getting artificial limbs, psychosocial support, Facial Reconstruction and Counseling services? These NGOs get funding from the Trust Fund for Victims of the ICC”.

She said ICC was concentrating on Lukodi because that is where Ongwen committed those crimes for which he is before court. She said Ongwen cannot be held responsible for all the crimes committed by other LRA commanders in other parts of Northern Uganda.

“It is not possible to hold Ongwen responsible for all the crimes committed in the whole Northern Uganda. His crime relates to Lukodi”. She said, adding that ICC may expand the scope on Ongwen to include other places like Pajule and Odek where he is reported to have committed crimes there as well.

17th July is declared The Day of International Criminal Justice to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute which established the ICC on 17th July 1998. So far, 123 States have ratified the Rome Statute.

ICC seeks to protect people from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. The day unites all those who wish to support justice, promote victims’ rights and help prevent crimes (that are committed by individuals, but not States) that threaten the peace, security and well-being of the world.

Lukodi will host this year’s celebrations to mark the Day of International Criminal Justice on Friday, 17 July 2015 to thank the community for their overwhelming support to the work of ICC after waiting for ten years before a suspected from the five indicted LRA commanders is in Court.

“Ten years of waiting for justice is a bit long. We want to celebrate Justice in a special way”. Ms. Kamara said.

To celebrate the day, ICC designed a special Facebook account: 17th July. JusticeMatters to collect views of people on what Justice means to them. The campaign, which began on 6th July 2015, will end on Friday.

“People are saying every kind of things in the campaign. Victims are saying this is an opportunity for their voices to be heard”. Kamara said.

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