Between Reparations and Repair: Assessing the Work of the ICC Trust Fund for Victims Under Its Assistance Mandate

67 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2018

See all articles by Anne Dutton

Anne Dutton

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law

Fionnuala D. Ni Aolain

University of Minnesota Law School; The Queens University of Belfast

Date Written: September 24, 2018


The practice of international justice has made a significant shift from narrowly focused criminal accountability to a broader and more holistic understanding of the totality of victims’ justice needs. In particular, international criminal justice is concerned with victims of mass atrocity crimes, whose needs are profound and whose capacities are limited by the experiences of gross and systematic violence. These needs include individual and communal capacity building to engage in criminal processes as well as remedy and repair in the aftermath of criminal procedures. The Trust Fund for Victims represents, in many ways, the epicenter of this shift in international law practice, as a unique institution that has a central role in providing both an assistance and reparations mandate under the International Criminal Court (Rome) Statute. This article addresses how well that task has been operationalized in practice by the Trust Fund. In parallel, the assessment has a wider purview by allowing a broad engagement with the challenges, complexities and realties on the ground that shape the enforcement of reparations for victims, as well as molding institutional responses by intervenors including the Trust Fund. Given the challenges of successfully implementing reparations there is often little time or capacity to measure (as one goes along) what has worked effectively and what has not. International organizations, states, courts and civil society have made consistent calls for evidence of success, failure and/or the value of reparations. At the simplest level, because most human rights and humanitarian law treaties provide for the right to a remedy, assessing if remedies work in practice is critical to understanding if state obligation has, in fact, delivered. This article provides concrete, contextual and novel assessment of the delivery of reparations for systematic human rights violations, offering timely and relevant analysis for the international criminal court in particular and scholars/practitioners concerned with the conceptualisation and delivery of reparations in practice. The analysis and data presented is based on unique access to the Trust Fund's operations with on the ground assessment of the programming for assistance and reparations in Northern Uganda. The data underpinning the research findings is singular and makes a new contribution to the literature and practice of international criminal justice.

Keywords: Reparations, International Criminal Law, Victims, Repair, Trust Fund for Victims, Ethics

Suggested Citation

Dutton, Anne and Ni Aolain, Fionnuala D., Between Reparations and Repair: Assessing the Work of the ICC Trust Fund for Victims Under Its Assistance Mandate (September 24, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Anne Dutton

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Fionnuala D. Ni Aolain (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

229 19th Ave. So.
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States
612-624-2318 (Phone)
612-625-2011 (Fax)

The Queens University of Belfast ( email )

University Square
Belfast, County Down
Northern Ireland

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