In February 2017, I revisited a village in northern Uganda as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) at the International Criminal Court (ICC: The Hague, The Netherlands).

Many people in this village suffered their family members being killed, had their hands or legs cut off, and lost their houses and assets during prolonged conflicts in the country. Many children were abducted and forced to serve as child soldiers or “wives” of soldiers.

The people are being provided services such as surgery and artificial limbs, psychological rehabilitation, literacy education and occupational training through the TFV’s assistance mandate for victims. They are returning to their families, gaining a livelihood and regaining hope. Smiles of children here convinced me that it was right to have continued the assistance.

The ICC prosecutes individuals who have committed international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It is the only permanent international criminal court in the world.

Japan is the biggest financial contributor among 123 states parties and bears approximately 16 percent of the total budget or 23.7 million euros ($27 million, or 3 billion yen) in the court budget for the year 2018. There are a lot of challenges for the ICC, but the accumulation of constant investigations and trials would enhance its credibility.

The ICC adopted a system where victims can participate in criminal proceedings and request reparations. This is an unprecedented endeavor in the area of international criminal justice, next to the Cambodia Khmer Rouge trials where I served as the U.N. international judge.

The TFV is in charge of the implementation of reparations orders that the court issues against convicted persons. The TFV also provides a variety of assistance programs at stages before trials. It depends mainly on voluntary contributions from states parties and fund-raising is one of the essential responsibilities of the board members. The TFV has provided assistance to more than 400,000 victims in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2008. This year the TFV will expand the number of targeted countries for assistance.

More than five years have passed since I became the board member representing the Asian States and the chair of the board. One of the motives I had when I ran for the board election six years ago as the first candidate from Japan was that I wished to contribute to the establishment of victims’ reparations mechanisms based on my experience in Cambodia.

The participation of and reparations for victims are both very important, while the system would not be able to provide meaningful assistance if the mechanisms are poorly designed and take too much time and expense. That will also place a heavy burden on the court and may negatively affect its core mandate of criminal trials. It is therefore critical to establish well-balanced and functioning mechanisms.

I am satisfied to see that the importance of these issues has become widely recognized by states parties and the court, and that the first implementation of the court-ordered reparations has finally come to a reality during my term.

We live in an era where we can send a space probe to a small planet hundreds of millions of kilometers away, but there remains a lot to do for those who suffer from war tragedies on our planet.

During the rest of my term, I will remain vocal in requesting the international community further strengthening its support.


This article was contributed by Motoo Noguchi, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims at the International Criminal Court