Fund helps the victims of international crimes to make a new start
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Trust Fund for Victims at the International Criminal Court, and the Friends of the Trust Fund for Victims, an association being established, organized a discussion forum at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in early October with the aim of raising awareness of the fund’s activities and achievements.
Through its assistance programmes, the Trust Fund for Victims at the International Criminal Court has already helped more than one hundred thousand victims of the most serious international crimes.
The aim of the fund is to help the victims of crimes handled by the International Criminal Court, the ICC, and their loved ones.
The Trust Fund for Victims has two main tasks: to see to the implementation of Court-ordered reparations to victims; and, through projects targeted at the ICC’s situation countries, to support the victims of crimes, for example by arranging physical and psychological rehabilitation and by helping them in any other way to make a new start in life.
Finland has been a strong supporter of the Trust Fund’s activities and is one of its biggest donor countries.
Victims have a strong position in the ICC
The forum held at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on 7 October gathered together interested participants from many different fields.
The keynote speakers at the discussion forum were Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja, Minister Elisabeth Rehn, who is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims, and Executive Director Pieter de Baan from the Secretariat of the Trust Fund for Victims in The Hague. The moderator and interviewer at the discussion forum was journalist Bettina Sågbom.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja stated that supporting the Trust Fund for Victims has been very important to Finland.
At present, Finland’s input is used to finance the Trust Fund programme that strives to assist the victims of sexual and gender violence in conflicts.
According to Foreign Minister Tuomioja, the establishment of the International Criminal Court is a historic achievement. The ICC is the first and only international court whose charter grants victims a strong position.
Victims can take part in court proceedings and can receive monetary reparation.
The Foreign Minister emphasized that every victim has the right to obtain official recognition for being the victim of a crime.
Fair treatment of injustices also promotes the restoration of peace and social stability after a conflict.
The road to recovery is long
As a member of the Trust Fund’s Board of Directors, Rehn has witnessed many of the assistance programmes administered by the Trust Fund on site, particularly in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There are great numbers of seriously traumatized victims in conflict zones, and the road to recovery is long and arduous. Rehn stated, however, that each victim who received assistance makes one believe in the possibility of change more strongly, also in a broader societal perspective.
Assistance programmes not only help individuals; they also enable the rebuilding of trust and collectivity in communities.
The experiences obtained through the assistance programmes of the Trust Fund for Victims have been very encouraging, and the effectiveness of the assistance programmes has also been recognized in external evaluations of the Trust Fund’s activities.
Plastic surgery, trauma therapy and micro-credits
Pieter de Baan, Executive Director of the Secretariat of the Trust Fund for Victims, likewise stressed the importance of comprehensive assistance. The Trust Fund’s programmes aim not only to assist victims and their families but also to create the foundations for reconciliation and peacebuilding in their own communities.
Multidisciplinary expertise is required in order to achieve success in this objective. Pivotal in emergency care after a conflict is, of course, the provision of assistance to physically and mentally disabled victims.
After this, however, assistance is needed to facilitate the return to normal daily life. In order to enable this, the Trust Fund has programmes that, for example, help people to start earning their livelihood.
De Baan said that the Trust Fund’s assistance programmes strive to be multidisciplinary. Aside from the expertise of doctors, psychotherapists and lawyers, there is a need for know-how in other areas as well.
Conflict victims are assisted physically, mentally and economically, for example by means of plastic surgery, trauma therapy and micro-credits.
Friends of the Trust Fund for Victims as an example for other countries
The initiative for establishing the association called the Friends of the Trust Fund for Victims derives from a group of people active in different sectors who, because of their profession or for some other reasons, perceive the Trust Fund’s activities as close to them and consider these activities to be valuable.
Executive Director de Baan thanked the State of Finland for its stable and dedicated cooperation with the Trust Fund for Victims. He also welcomed the establishment of the association and stated that it is an inspiring example for others to follow in other countries.
Towards forgiveness and peacebuilding
The activities of the Trust Fund for Victims at the International Criminal Court also featured prominently in Johannesburg, South Africa in September, at the seminar Africa and the International Criminal Court: Lessons Learned and Synergies Ahead, organized by Africa Legal Aid (AFLA). Minister Elisabet Rehn represented the Trust Fund at the seminar.
AFLA, the seminar organizer, is a pan-African non-governmental organization that works to promote international law as well as the implementation of the rights of individuals and communities.
Finland, together with Estonia, Norway and The Netherlands, supported the organization of the conference financially.
Programmes of the Trust Fund have helped, among others, former child soldiers and victims of sexual violence and torture. In Northern Uganda, aside from psychological assistance, the Trust Fund has organized plastic surgery to help victims of mutilation and burn victims.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, workshops have been held in schools with the aim of promoting peaceful coexistence through art, the sharing of experiences and through discussion.
Rehn pointed out that the Trust Fund’s activities are oriented towards both the past and the future. The intention is on the one hand to compensate the violations experienced by victims, and on other hand to get over the trauma stemming from the offences and proceed towards forgiveness and peacebuilding.
In the near future the Trust Fund for Victims will be able, the first time, to implement the payment of reparations ordered by the International Criminal Court. The ICC has handed down its first convictions in the cases of Thomas Lubanga and GermainKatanga, which are associated with events that took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Lubanga’s case, an appeal is currently pending in the court.
Lubanga was convicted for the recruitment of child soldiers and their use in combat, while Katanga was found guilty of crimes against humanity and four counts of war crimes.
Rehn praised the ICC’s decisions, which are groundbreaking from the victims’ point of view. The Trust Fund for Victims has the important role of deciding on how the reparations will be carried out.
More information about the activities of the Trust Fund for Victims on the website: