DRC: Nearly 20 years after, ICC orders reparations for the victims of Bosco Ntaganda

On 8 March 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC) ordered reparations in the case against Bosco Ntaganda. FIDH and its member organisations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Association Africaine des droits de l’Homme (ASADHO), Groupe Lotus, and the Ligue des électeurs salute this decision, which takes into account the demands of the victims, and call on the states concerned to support the prompt and effective implementation of the reparation measures ordered.

In order to ensure a holistic approach in view of the great number of victims in the case, and the multiplicity of the crimes they suffered, as well as the long-term hardships caused by these crimes, the reparations ordered by Trial Chamber IV of the ICC take the form of collective reparations with an individual element. The direct and indirect victims entitled to benefit from these reparation measures are the victims of the attacks for which Ntaganda has been condemned, but also the victims of crimes against child soldiers, the victims of rape and sexual enslavement, as well as children born as a result of rape or sexual enslavement.

"It is with great satisfaction that we welcome this decision of the ICC, which takes the demands of the victims into account, and, for the first time, presents an inclusive and multifaceted vision of the offences committed against the victims. The cooperation of the States concerned is nevertheless imperative, as is coordination with the Congolese government, in order to ensure that the reparations are effectively implemented and take real effect."

Paul Nsapu, president of the Ligue des électeurs

The judges estimated the amount of the reparations at 30 million dollars, the highest sum ever awarded by the ICC, at the same time declaring Mr Ntaganda indigent, and requesting the Trust Fund for Victims, whose annual budget amounts to 4 million euros, to make sure that the necessary funds are collected, and to establish priorities as resources become available. The Fund must, before 8 September 2021, also submit an outline plan for implementation of the reparations, and, before 8 June 2021, an urgent plan for priority victims.

Our organisations call on States and private donors to support the Trust Fund for Victims so that it can carry out the task assigned to it and make reparations effective for the thousands of victims of the crimes committed by Bosco Ntaganda in Ituri.

In July 2019, Bosco Ntaganda, Deputy Chief of Staff and commander of military operations for the Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (FPLC), had been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including crimes of rape and sexual enslavement, committed during the 2002-2003 conflict in Ituri, in the north-east of the DRC. The Ntaganda case is currently in its appeal phase, and the appeal judgment is expected to be delivered on 30 March. Nevertheless, the Trial Chamber VI decided on reparations in advance of the appeal decision, in view of the fact that the crimes committed by Mr Ntaganda took place nearly twenty years ago, of the right of the victims to rapid reparation, and of the need of some among them for urgent assistance. Moreover, the mandates of two of the three judges of this Chamber terminate in March 2021.

"With this third order for reparations handed down by the ICC in respect of the situation in DRC, it becomes all the more urgent that the Congolese government should put in place a global policy of reparations for the victims of the conflict in Ituri. All these years without effective reparations only exacerbate the injustice and the situations of extreme urgency in which a great number of the victims find themselves."

Jean-Claude Katende, president of ASADHO

Concerning the situation in DRC, quite apart from the Ntaganda case, the ICC tried and condemned Thomas Lubanga (in 2012, confirmed on appeal in 2014) and Germain Katanga (in 2014) on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 2002-2003. In these cases the Court ordered both collective, symbolic reparations and community-service orders (Lubanga case), and individual compensation, as well as reparations in the form of psychological support and support in the fields of education, housing, and economic activities (Katanga case). However, while Messrs Lubanga and Katanga have purged their sentences, many victims are still waiting for these reparations to be implemented.

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