For the first time in the history of international criminal justice, the negotiators of the Rome Statute placed victims at the heart of proceedings, recognising in the second paragraph of the preamble that States Parties were “mindful that during [the last] century millions of children, women and men have been victims of unimaginable atrocities that deeply shocked the conscience of humanity”.
The Rome Statute, especially article 68(3), enables victims of crimes falling under the jurisdiction of the Court to make representations, to submit observations and to have their views and concerns presented and considered “when [their] personal interests […] are affected” at all phases of the proceedings. In addition, victims can seek reparations for the harm suffered as a result of these crimes pursuant to article 75 of the Rome Statute.
Victims now play an important role in the proceedings of the International Criminal Court. As mentioned above, pursuant to article 68(3) of the Rome Statute, during judicial proceedings, victims have the right to present their views and concerns directly to the Court. Victims may exercise their participatory rights throughout all instances of judicial proceedings, including pre-trial, trial and appeal proceedings. In fact, victims’ rights to make observations to the Court on specific topics may commence even before the pre-trial stage (for instance on a question regarding the ICC’s jurisdiction or where the Prosecutor decides not to commence an investigation subsequent to victims’ communications with the ICC in respect of the situation).
Notably, as mentioned earlier, victims may also claim reparations for the harm that they have suffered due to crime in cases where the proceedings lead to conviction of the accused. Consequently, at the end of a trial, if there is a conviction, the Trial Chamber may order a convicted person to pay reparations to the victims of the crimes of which the person was found guilty. The Court may order such reparations to be paid through the Trust Fund for Victims. The Court may award reparations on an individual and/or collective basis, whichever is, in its view, the most appropriate for the victims in the particular case. Collective and/or individual reparations may include monetary compensation, return of property, rehabilitation, medical support, victims’ services centres, or symbolic measures such as apologies or memorials.
For the purposes of participation in ICC proceedings, the Court recognises the following categories of victims:
– Individual persons who have suffered harm as a result of one of the ICC crimes. Individual victims should apply by completing the application form for participation for individuals which will be available on this website soon.
Victims may include men and women, victims of sexual violence, children, persons with disabilities, or elderly persons. A victim can also be a person who has suffered harm as a result of a crime which targeted at another person, such as a family member of someone who has been killed.
– Organisations or institutions, when their property dedicated to certain purposes (religion, education, art, science or charitable and humanitarian purposes, or historic monuments or hospitals) is harmed as a result of one of the crimes outlined in the arrest warrants. Organisations and institutions should apply for participation by using the application form for participation for organisations which will be available on this website soon. Only duly authorised representatives of an organisation or institution may complete the application form.
Relevant Statutory Provisions and Rules:
Article 68(3) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court provides for the protection of the victims and witnesses and their participation in the proceedings of the Court.
Section III (Rules 85 to 99) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the International Criminal Court (ICC) elaborates on the issues pertaining to victims’ participation as enshrined in Article 68(3) of the Rome Statute, it includes:
– Definition of the term ‘victims’ (Rule 85)
– Protective and Special Measures (Rules 87 and 88)
– Victims’ Participation in the Proceedings (Rule 89)
– Legal Representatives of Victims (Rule 90) and their Participation in the Proceedings (Rule 91)
– Views of Victims or their Legal Representatives (Rule 93)
– Reparations to Victims (Rules 94 to 97)
– Trust Fund for Victims (Rule 98)
Relevant Offices at the Court related to Victims:
1. Victims Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS):
VPRS is responsible for assisting victims in the process of applying for participation in proceedings, and reparations in case of a conviction. It also assists victims and the Chambers in finding an appropriate legal representation of victims during the proceedings.
2. Office of Public Counsel for Victims (OPCV):
Within the Court, the Office of Public Counsel for the Victims (OPCV) provides legal representation to victims throughout proceedings, as well as assistance and support to external lawyers appointed by victims. The OPCV is an independent office and falls within the Registry solely for administrative purposes. This independence is a prerequisite for carrying out the mandate of assisting and representing legal representatives of victims and victims. Such independence allows the Office to work without being subjected to pressure of any kind and preserves the privileged relationship between victims and their lawyers. The Office has also an important role in enhancing the rights of victims in the proceedings, advocating at different levels and participating in specialised meetings with subsidiary bodies of the Assembly of States Parties and NGOs.