Who will oversee the victims at the ICC?

13 March 2006 by HEIKELINA VERRIJN STUART

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the first international tribunal to allow victims to actively participate. The trial chamber's January 17 ruling allows six victims to get involved at a very early stage of the proceedings - during the investigations that the ICC is conducting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On January 23, the prosecutor filed an application for leave to appeal this decision he strongly opposes. From his point of view, "the broad scope of victim participation envisioned creates a serious imbalance between victims and any future accused persons", and admitting them at the investigation stage could lead the chamber to "premature and inappropriate factual conclusions".

Even though no arrest warrants have been issued yet in the Congo case and the ICC's victims' trust fund has barely been activated, the judges in Pre-Trial Chamber I, presided by French judge Claude Jorda [read our interview in IJT-38], have just rendered one of the first major decisions in the history of the court. The ruling notes that the new role given to victims is "consistent with the object and purpose of the victims participation regime established by the drafters of the Statute, which ensued from a debate that took place in the context of the growing emphasis placed on the role of victims by the international body of human rights law and by international humanitarian law." NGOs are praising this highly symbolic decision [see box above], which will nevertheless have consequences for the future trials.

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

article
19 February 2007 by Laetitia Grotti

One year ago on January 6, 2006, the 17 members of Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) were closing up shop after submitting their final report to King Mohammed VI. The Moroccan truth commission had received a flood of compliments from the international community praising the recommendations in its report, especially those advocating legislative and constitutional reforms. One year later, however, the results have been rather mixed.

article
11 September 2006 by our correspondent in Arusha

After having tried high-ranking officers, ministers, businessmen, priests, journalists, local officials and militiamen, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is in uncharted waters. On September 11, the most famous rwandese troubadour of his generation will stand trial for genocide. 

article
23 October 2006 by Christine Chaumeau

China is keeping a polite distance from international criminal justice. Beijing is hardly disinterested, but China does want to make sure that these new global mechanisms are not going to infringe upon its sovereignty by delving into particularly sensitive cases such as Tibet. 

article
United Nations Operation in Burundi disarms rebel forces in Mbanda in February 2005 (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Martine Perret)
03 June 2015 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Over the last month, Burundi has hit the headlines as the president put himself forward to be elected for a controversial third term, resulting in street protests, thousands of refugees who fled instability and an attempted coup. Behind the issues of elections and constitutionalism are also those of justice following Burundi’s long-running civil war. The international community supported an intensive process of negotiation and the signing of the Arusha Accord in 2000. But in the decade and a half since, its provisions on justice have been debated though never fully implemented.

article
06 November 2006 by Pierre Hazan

France's attitude towards international criminal justice is marked by ambiguity. Paris subscribes to a vision of the world in which international humanitarian law is considered a way to curb violence against civilian populations, but at the same time it is wary of an unchecked judicial system that could end up prosecuting French soldiers engaged in areas where it has old and deep-rooted interests.