Speech by Elisabeth Rehn at Doha Conference

Speech by Elisabeth Rehn at Doha Conference

Key Note Speech Ms. Elisabeth Rehn, Chair of the Board of Directors, Trust Fund for Victims, Doha Conference, 24th - 25th May 2011.

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It is a great honour for me to be invited to give this speech at this timely and important event that brought us all together today in Doha, which is the first major event of its kind in the Middle East and Northern Africa. I would like to thank the State of Qatar and the League of Arab States who sponsored this event in cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

This conference recognizes that there is a need for a relationship between the International Criminal Court and the Arab World. Our gathering here is already a great step forward enabling us to engage and discuss issues of common interest and concern through open and constructive dialogue.

Unfortunately, victims suffer from serious crimes in all parts of the world, including the Arab region. The plight of victims, which is of concern to all of us, is a matter of great importance in the Rome Statute, in a way that is without precedent. Therefore, the needs of victims should be of particular interest to you. They are in need of your support.

I speak to you today not as a representative of the International Criminal Court but as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims, its sister institution created by the Rome Statute and a concrete manifestation of the Rome Statute’s groundbreaking inclusion of victims in international criminal law.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously referred the ongoing situation in Libya to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation into possible crimes committed against civilians. The Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo did in fact, on 16 May 2011, request the ICC judges to issue arrest warrants against Libyan leaders.

As part of the judicial process, the Court engages with victims as witnesses and participants in trial proceedings, on which the panelists may give you more information.

The Rome Statute also recognizes victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide as deserving recipients of general assistance and reparations ordered by the Court. To make this happen, the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) was established pursuant to Article 79 of the Rome Statute. As such, the Trust Fund is a new, independent and unique instrument of reparative justice intended to address the harm to victims resulting from the crimes under the jurisdiction of the Court.

The Trust Fund is governed by a Board of Directors representing different geographical regions and serving on a pro bono basis. The Board members are elected by – and report directly to – the Assembly of States Parties.

I would like to recall that on the very first Board of Directors, in addition to two Nobel laureates, the representative of the Asian States was Her Majesty, Queen Rania of Jordan. Her advocacy and high level profile helped prepare the foundation for the Trust Fund’s later work in those crucial, first days of its existence.

The Trust Fund for Victims has two main mandates.

The first mandate is to implement reparations ordered by the International Criminal Court for those victims who suffered harm caused by the crimes of which the accused is convicted. The Trust Fund’s reparations mandate depends on Court proceedings, in particular on a Court order against a convicted person, which is different from administrative forms of reparations at the national level, which relate to the accountability of a State. This mandate will be activated once there is a conviction before the Court. Within the next year, we may expect to receive the first reparations orders, since hearings in three cases are currently underway before the Court.

Reparations can take many different forms and are in no way limited to individual monetary compensation. They can also take the form of collective or symbolic awards or consist of measures aimed at promoting reconciliation within divided communities. Pending a first Court decision on this matter, a lot of questions are still open on how reparations will work out. Expectations may run high, but reparations before the International Criminal Court are likely to be relatively limited in scope, given the scarcity of available resources and the fact that ICC reparations should not displace any national responsibility to address the plight and needs of victims.

The second mandate of the Trust Fund is to assist victims residing within a “situation” country before the Court. It is important to note that this assistance concerns victims who are within the jurisdiction of the Court but who may not necessarily be linked to any particular case before the Court.

Through its general assistance mandate the Trust Fund supports victims and their families in rebuilding their lives and communities, including former child soldiers, survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, widows, amputees, disfigured and tortured persons and many more. These activities, which include physical and psychological rehabilitation as well as material support, are implemented by local and international partners.

Operations under the general assistance mandate the Trust Fund started in 2008. At the moment there are 29 projects active in the DRC and Uganda which currently benefit 75,000 people. As I speak, we are launching our programme of activities in the Central African Republic. The Trust Fund’s resources for these activities do not come from the Court, but from voluntary contributions from various sources, including States Parties to the Rome Statute.

The combination of assistance and reparations is unique in the world of international criminal law, and it provides the Trust Fund with key strengths for meeting the needs of victims of the gravest crimes in international law:

  • The TFV’s intervention is timely. Throughout most of its brief history the TFV has provided assistance to the most vulnerable victims even before trials have started before the Court.
  • The TFV is also flexible, especially in its ability to target victims of crimes beyond the boundaries of particular trials. In the Ituri district in Eastern Congo for example, the TFV has been supporting girls who were forcibly conscripted into and sexually abused by armed groups. Such crimes were not included in the charges against Thomas Lubanga.
  • Finally, because of its first hand experience in assisting victims in the field through its general assistance mandate the TFV is also a valuable source of operational knowledge for the Court, especially vis-à-vis the design and implementation of awards for reparation. For example, the TFV thinks that in addressing reparations, a gender dimension related to the impact of violence will need to be included in the considerations. This is because violence impacts men and boys differently than it impacts women and girls

To give you a better idea how the Trust Fund assists victims under its general assistance mandate in practice, I would like to share with you some of my experiences in the capacity as Chair of the Trust Fund’s Board of Directors:

Last year, during the occasion of the Kampala Review conference I visited several Trust Fund projects in Uganda and met with their beneficiaries. The Trust Fund for example organizes the medical rehabilitation of victims of the Lord Resistance Army, the LRA. The LRA often brutally mutilates civilians, cutting off ears, noses and lips as well as arms or legs. At the moment, the Trust Fund is unique in providing plastic surgery to victims of such crimes, as well as much needed psycho-social counselling.

My second example comes from a project we have been supporting for more than two years now: an accelerated learning program that helps girls, who were abducted into fighting forces and gave birth while in captivity return to school. For these young women, their babies can be a source of stigma and rejection, an impediment to their education and a constant economic burden. To address these issues, the project combines a school and day-care centre with psychological support. This approach gives the girls an opportunity to regain the education they lost while in captivity and bond with their children.

As the young mothers tend to their babies in the centre’s day care, they learn that they are not alone and that their babies can in fact be a source of pride. Only several months into the school year, for instance, the girls began to carry their children in public while wearing their school uniforms, a very public statement that being a student and a mother is not a source of shame: rather, it is a sign of remarkable achievement.

As you can see, the Trust Fund pays special attention to particularly vulnerable groups of victims, such as old people, children and victims of gender based violence who are often unable to speak up for themselves.

In fact, I would like to remind us that while we are gathered here, crimes of gender based violence may be ongoing in many countries including in the Arab world. Let me just mention the example of Libya. Only last week, the ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo told CNN in an interview that his office is investigating allegations of institutionalized rape in Libya and even though he is not ready to present the case yet, he may in the coming months add charges for rapes.

In the foreseeable future, the TFV may have a role to play in addressing the harmed suffered by the victims in Libya and assist in facilitating their rehabilitation.

I would like to reference the inclusion of sexual violence in the Prosecution’s investigation strategy and the attention paid to the use of rape in war, both of which represent significant progress toward making the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 a reality.

Resolution 1325, as well as those that have followed – 1820, 1888 and 1889 – recognized both the adverse impact of violence against women and girls and the necessity to address the culture of impunity around rape and the attitude of men, but also the key role that women play in establishing durable peace and security and lasting institutions. Let me expand on these two thoughts: the need to change our thinking about sexual violence and the important role of women in peace processes and in supporting victims.

Our cultures, which often do not take seriously enough gender based crimes, must change. And we all, both men and women, should openly and publicly side with victim survivors of such crimes and impart to them that we all acknowledge that it is the perpetrators and not the victims that have done wrong. We must ensure that victims no longer need to feel ashamed and stigmatized.

Secondly, I would like to add a few thoughts on the key role that women play in securing peace and raising their voices on behalf of victims.

I am convinced that women have an important role to play in promoting peace and they best understand the suffering of the particularly vulnerable victims, such as the victims of gender based violence. Within the Trust Fund the role of women has been vital. I already mentioned my predecessors Her Royal Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan and I would like to add that currently three out of the five Trust Fund Board members are women, Ms. Betty Murungi from Kenya for the African States and Ms. Vika Freiberga of Latvia for the Eastern European States and myself. There are many other examples of women playing important roles in public functions.

Women have an important role to play as nation builders. The pictures of the peaceful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia show women in the forefront, demonstrating and calling for democracy. Women are critical to the consolidation of peace because of their crucial role in the socio-economic fabric of a country. They may make a difference because they adopt a more inclusive – and more promising - approach to peace and security.

I call on all of us to break the silence and mobilize public support for victims of the most serious crimes. We must work together to shift the stigma from the victims to the perpetrators and empower the victims to reclaim their dignity and rebuild their lives. I hope that this conference will give us the opportunity to discuss how we can increase our efforts to restore the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable victims.

Now, in my capacity as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims, kindly allow me to be straightforward with you. For the Trust Fund to be able to meet the expectations and needs of the victims within the jurisdiction of the Court, it needs sufficient resources.

While we are receiving voluntary contributions from States Parties, you should be aware that there is no prohibition whatsoever for the Fund to engage with non-States Parties, with private organisations or even private individuals.

As I said in the beginning, the interests and needs of victims are important pillars of the Court. They will stand to benefit greatly from your support, as well.

I thank you very much for your attention.