Seeking Justice at the International Criminal Court: Victims' Reparations

30 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2006 Last revised: 11 Feb 2009

Date Written: November 8, 2006


The International Criminal Court (ICC) represents a major step forward in international criminal justice, particularly with regard to victims. Victims of international crimes are, for the first time, recognized as having rights as participants in the process and as recipients of reparations. The self-professed goal of the ICC is to provide a foundation for rebuilding society after mass violence, through prosecution of the perpetrators and reparations for victims.

In keeping with the theory of restorative justice, the Assembly of States Parties has expanded the universe of victims eligible for reparations through the Victims Trust Fund (VTF). The Court can award reparations to victims of the most responsible perpetrators prosecuted and convicted by the ICC. The VTF's "other resources" mechanism (voluntary contributions to the fund) can cover victims (and their families) of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court, not merely crimes of convicted defendants.

The collective nature of restorative justice is consonant with collective or group reparations for victims. The victims of mass atrocities cannot be made whole by compensation alone. Realistically, sufficient individual payments are not feasible. Even if the VTF has millions of dollars to disburse, the sheer scale of international crimes would likely dwarf monetary resources. As a result, the VTF should typically complement the retributive justice achieved through the prosecution of the worst offenders with restorative justice measures in the form of collective reparations. Thus, the VTF should consider favoring collective awards to a broader class of victims to further the restorative justice goal of the ICC. If the VTF manages the expectations of these large numbers of potential victims and gives them a voice in the allocation of scarce resources through collective reparations, it can contribute to the healing of victims and society.

Keywords: International Criminal Court, victims, reparations, international law, international human rights

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Keller, Linda M., Seeking Justice at the International Criminal Court: Victims' Reparations (November 8, 2006). Thomas Jefferson Law Review, Vol. 29, No. 2, p. 189, 2007, TJSL Legal Studies Research Paper No. 940050, Available at SSRN:

Linda M. Keller (Contact Author)

Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )

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619-961-4282 (Phone)

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