Of Shrines, Memorials and Museums: Using the International Criminal Court's Victim Reparation and Assistance Regime to Promote Transitional Justice
40 Pages Posted: 13 May 2009
Date Written: May 13, 2009
This article reviews and critically assesses the Rome Statute's complex victim reparation and assistance regime. The regime is a dual one, characterized by its reliance both on International Criminal Court ordered reparations and Victims Trust Fund provided assistance. Both logics raise a series of quantitative, qualitative, scope and contextual problems which are very imperfectly answered at present. In particular, there is a risk that the broader needs of transitional justice will be omitted as falling neither under "reparation" or "assistance". Rather than address the issue of the best reparations/assistance regime in the abstract, the article explores the real-world potential of a particular form of transitional practice, namely the construction of shrines, memorials and museums to commemorate victims of mass crimes. It finds that there are complex ties between the construction of such "monuments" and both memory, transitional justice, and indeed victim expectations. Moreover, there is a discreet but constant practice of fitting the building of such commemorative monuments both within judicial theories of responsibility/reparation, and less formal processes of reckoning with the past such as truth commissions. The experience of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in ordering "monuments as reparations" is highlighted as evidence of an innovative international best practice. The article seeks to assess how this experience could be transferred to the ICC/VTF context. It finds that although additional complexities arise, there is no reason in principle why the Rome Statute's victim reparation/assistance regime could not order or encourage the building of so-called "sites of conscience." To do so would better manage victim expectations, make good use of scarce resources, address collective victim needs, make sense symbolically of the harm caused, provide a more complex narrative of events than international criminal verdicts, highlight multiple causes and responsibilities, and help distinguish the ICC/VTF's efforts from competing initiatives. It would, in other words, help better integrate international criminal justice with transitional justice goals.
Keywords: international criminal court, reparation, victims
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation