All organs of the Court must take appropriate measures to protect the privacy, dignity, physical and psychological well-being and the security of victims and witnesses, especially when the crimes involve sexual or gender violence, while fully respecting the rights of the accused. This general principle is affirmed in article 68 of the Statute and specified in rules 87 and 88 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.The ICC also has a duty to ensure that victims and witnesses do not suffer further harm because of their involvement with the Court.
To help victims and witnesses face the judicial process -- without being (re)traumatized by it -- the ICC has established a Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU), placed in the "neutral" Registry, to provide protective measures and security arrangements, counselling and other appropriate assistance for witnesses and victims, victims who appear before the Court and others who are at risk on account of testimony.
Broadly speaking the VWU has indicated to civil society groups in a series of meetings and discussions, that there are three levels of protection:
1) Prevention. The VWU has indicated that protecting the identity of a victim or witness is the best form of security. Anonymity is second to none. Best practice procedures for handling victims must be adopted in order to protect the victim, but also those assisting the victim, namely intermediary NGOs who otherwise might be put at risk if they are seen to be liaising with the ICC.
2) Protective Measures provided by the Court. These are Court granted measures applicable to safeguarding the identity of victims and witnesses throughout the court process. Such protective measures include the use of pseudonyms, the capacity of victims to participate through legal representatives, etc. So far, all victims are participating anonymously from the accused and the public; only the judges and in some cases the Prosecutor are able to see their names and other details, which are otherwise ‘redacted’ out of all court documents by select Registry officials.
3) The Protection Programme of the Court. The Court operates a Witness Protection Programme and has indicated that if any participating victims are exposed and experience serious risks, these risks will be assessed on the same basis as for Prosecution or Defence witnesses testifying. Such measures include in extreme cases relocation to other regions or countries. For this purpose the Court has negotiated a number of relocation agreements with other countries.
The reference in the Rome Statute to "others who are at risk" and the inclusive language of article 68 is said to include, inter alia, the effective protection of family members and other dependants of victims. It is still unclear however, how informers and other intermediaries assisting victims will be protected if at risk.
A girl in the Isangi Territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo smiles on her way to school, May 2006. Many parents cannot afford to pay for adequate education for their children in a society destroyed by years of civil war
© Eddy Isango/IRIN