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Societal Reintegration of Victims of Core International Crimes

Oslo, 7 June 2012

Link to Seminar Concept and Programme 

The Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is more progressive than the legal frameworks of other international criminal jurisdictions with regard to victims’ participation and reparations. These features of the ICC have received much attention from States, civil society and academia. The mandate of the ICC Trust Fund for Victims to assist victims is also important given the time it takes to possible conviction and reparations. Providing victims a role in the criminal justice process anchors the process more explicitly in their sense of justice. Offering victims the possibility of reparations gives justice a second leg to stand on. Both victims’ participation and reparations seek primarily to address the negative consequences of past wrongdoings.

But participation in criminal proceedings may have little if any effect on the reintegration of victims in society. In some cases it may even be an obstacle to their reintegration, or it may lead to their relocation or the cementation of their displacement. Reparations may assist victims during the process of transition that societal reintegration entails, but only to a limited extent. Full reintegration involves more: it requires a return to work or education, the housing market, family structures, civil society engagement, and social inclusion. The process has a significant socio-psychological dimension. Societal reintegration requires a much broader spectrum of normalization in the lives of victims than victim participation, assistance and reparations, and is therefore more complex and challenging.

The tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the ICC Statute on 1 July 2012 offers an important opportunity to look beyond the Statute’s progressive regimes for victim participation, assistance and reparations. ICC States Parties and friends of the Court should transcend the temptation to self-congratulate, and focus on work yet to be done. Better societal reintegration of victims of core international crimes stands out as one of the central challenges. Much attention has been devoted to the narrower issue of reparations. Societal reintegration requires a broader approach, which places the victims at the heart of the analysis.

This seminar, organized with support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, considered some of the main issues raised by the reintegration into society of victims of core international crimes. What are the concrete needs of victims for successful reintegration? What are the relevant limitations of the current ICC mandates regarding victim participation, assistance and reparations? How far does the responsibility of the international community extend? Is there a need for national regulation to foster the societal reintegration of victims of core international crimes? These are common challenges for international and domestic criminal jurisdictions, including for legislators, departments of justice, health and immigration, and, especially at the local level, civil society actors and relevant health professionals. The seminar directed attention to the enduring interest of numerous victims affected by serious violations of international criminal law: the return to a more normal life. This concern should be a guiding principle for all those interested in transitional criminal justice.

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