The Position of the Victim in Cases Tried before the International Criminal Court in The Hague

(Last modified February 2008)

On 1 July 2002, the Rome Statue establishing a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) entered into force. In comparison to similar statutes formulated for the international tribunals dealing with crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, this statute considerably improved the status of the victims of macro-crimes. Article 79 stipulated that a trust fund was to be established "for the benefit of victims of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court, and of the families of such victims"; the ICC may order "money and other property collected through fines or forfeiture to be transferred" to the trust fund. Voluntary contributions to the fund, which currently holds some 2.5 million € and is managed by an international board of directors, are also possible.

This study will examine how these resources can be used within the framework set out in the Rome Statute. Which victims should receive benefits? Does the presumption of the accused’s innocence mean that benefits can only be paid after a decision has been reached by the ICC or is it permissible to make payments to victims before or during the investigation of a specific case?

A second issue addressed in this research is conflict prevention, which, as the ICC’s investigations with respect to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo show, is urgently needed. In 2007 the European Union launched an initiative to stimulate the participation of its member states in finding appropriate answers to emerging or existing conflicts worldwide. This project hopes to contribute to this initiative by developing and examining suggestions for defusing existing conflicts and avoiding future ones that are applicable to the current constellation in the Great Lakes Region in Africa. Of special significance in this context are approaches that create or restore a framework within which a dialog can be fostered between groups whose relations are marked by deep distrust or overt hostility.