Victims' Rights Working GroupPromoting the rights and interests of victims
January 2021


January 29, 2014

Victims’ Rights discussed at ASP 12 Plenary

By Nick Wilson and Theo Boutruche

The 12th Assembly of State Parties (ASP) meeting of the International Criminal Court (ICC) took place from the 20th – 28th November 2013 in The Hague, The Netherlands. For the first time, the ASP meeting included a plenary session on victims, facilitated by the ambassadors of Tunisia and Colombia, held in the morning of 22 November. The Victims’ Rights Working Group (VRWG) welcomed this plenary session as an indication of States Parties’ commitment to the role of victims before the International Criminal Court (ICC).  Panellists included Motoo Noguchi, Chair of the Board of Directors of the ICC Trust Fund for Victims (Japan), Fidel Luvengika Nsita, Congolese victims' legal representative in the Katanga case, Fiona Mckay, Chief of the ICC’s Victims Participation and Reparations Section, Francois Roux, Head of the Defence Office of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and Mariana Goetz, REDRESS’ Deputy Director.

Mariana Goetz was asked to consider the issue of “meaningful participation” and spoke of the benefit that the process of justice, rather than simply the final verdict, can have for victims. In this respect she indicated that “the quality of the recognition that the process provides [victims] may be more important than the final result.” She stressed that acknowledgement of victims should be integral to all stages of the proceedings.

She argued that in view of ensuring ‘meaningful participation’, individuals’ personal dignity should be respected and warned of the dangers of marginalising individual victims by defining only a collective group; “victims should not become a vague, anonymous and amalgamated category”. The plurality of victims’ perspectives must be acknowledged as “victims do not form a homogenous group; they experience harm differently and have different expectations of justice and reparation.”

Maitre Fidel Nsita, Legal Representative of Victims in the Katanga case, (DRC) maintained that “victims are not just passive bystanders in ICC cases. They are active participants.” Fiona McKay noted that there is a danger that victims’ individual rights and recourse to justice could be compromised by insisting on groupings that they do not recognise as their own. She argued that the judicial process and other legal actors should “not force victims into collectives they do not identify with.”

Several State representatives reiterated the fact that victims’ justice is, and always has been, a central component to the ICC’s functioning. France and Germany opened discussions from the floor and made strong statements about victims’ participation in criminal proceedings in their jurisdictions. Japan indicated that, “victims' justice, no matter how hard to achieve, is what the States parties committed to 10 years ago.” Ambassador Tiina Intelmaan (Estonia, President of the ASP) noted the additional benefits that accrue from a victim-centred approach, including fostering reconciliation in affected communities and aiding victims’ rehabilitation.

The French representative argued that it is necessary for victims to have a clear understanding of the Court’s process. This is a point that connects with the VRWG’s long standing position that if one wishes to ensure that victims can play a meaningful role in the ICC’s proceedings, they must be supported by adequate outreach and information.

The plenary session provided a welcome reminder that victims must remain at the centre of the ICC’s proceedings in the midst of a highly politicised ASP meeting, where discussions were otherwise focused on the presence of President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto of Kenya at their trials. A stand-alone resolution on victims and affected communities was adopted, addressing a number of points, including the need for the application process for victims’ participation to be reviewed and the need for the Court to establish principles on reparation in accordance with Article 75(1) of the Rome Statute. The resolution also underlined that liability for reparations is based exclusively on the individual criminal responsibility of the convicted person and that his or her indigent status for the purposes of paying legal fees had no bearing on his or her ability to pay reparation to victims. Finally, it was confirmed that the enforcement of reparations awards would be prioritised if assets were to be retrieved from a convicted person. 


Good to see explicit attention given to victims' issues at the Court as it struggles to give meaning to victims' rights embedded in the Rome Statute. Understanding procedural justice is an important first step in doing justice for victims.

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