SPEECH BY IBRAHIM S. YILLAH ESQ AT ICC AND NATIONAL JUSTICE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST IMPUNITY FOR ROME STATUTE CRIMES IN DAKAR, SENEGAL MAY 23RD 2022

Final Draft Speech Mr. Yillah

Protocol

Your Excellency, the President of the Republic of Senegal, President Macky Sall

Cabinet Ministers and other Members of the Government of the Republic of Senegal 

Ministers of Justice of ECOWAS and other African States Parties

Excellencies, Ambassadors and Distinguished Representatives

President of the Assembly of States Parties

President of the International Criminal Court

Deputy Prosecutor and Representatives of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court,

Registrar of the International Criminal Court,

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honour to be with you here today at this important conference on the challenges and prospects for cooperation and complementarity between the International Criminal Court  and,in particular, ECOWAS States Parties to the Rome Statute.Let me on behalf of the Board of Directorsof the Trust Fund For Victims at the International Criminal Court express our sincere gratitude and appreciation to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Senegal for having so proficiently organized this conference in Dakar, the capital of the country known as “Terranga,” a country of warmth and great hospitality.

This demonstrates, once again, 20 years after the entry into force of the Rome Statute, the renewed dedication of Senegal to the fight against impunity, a country that was the first to ratify the Rome Statuteand one of the first to hold a full trial against a former foreign head of state on its territory,] and which is the highest contributor from the African group of States to the Trust Fund for Victims and therefore to the cause of the victims.

I speak today to you as the representative ofthe Board of Directors of this Trust Fund for Victims at the International Criminal Court. It is indeed a privilege to represent and speak on behalf of the thousands if not millions of incredible victims of international crimes. At the same time, it is a huge responsibility and I hope I will do justice.

The Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute elected me on 6 December 2021 as the representative of the Africa Group of States. Thereafter, the Board of Directors elected me as the first Vice Chairin its history.

Victims occupy a central place in the legal system established by the Rome Statute. Its preamble refers to their plight in these terms, in addition to the provisions for the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes: “during this century millions of children, women and men have been victims of unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity.”

The creation of the Trust Fund for Victims by the Rome Statute is a strong and unprecedented message of the international community’s ambition to redress the harm suffered by victims of armed conflict.International criminal justice is no longer solely punitive. Today, reparations are a concrete reality for victims and a consequence of any trial before the International Criminal Court leading to a final conviction.

The Trust Fund was created as a separate institution, operating independently of the Court in terms of fundraising, fundmanagement and implementation work, but is closely interdependent with the Court, and in particular with the Registry, as the ICC’s administrative and legal framework also applies to the Trust Fund.

The Trust Fund is mandated to implement reparations. In the first place, it has the mandate toimplement reparations ordered by the Court against convicted persons. The Trust Fund is currently providing reparations to victims in the cases Katanga, Al Mahdi, Lubanga and Ntaganda, and has provided a variety of reparation measures to more than 1,600 individual beneficiaries to date, as well as symbolic reparations to the population of Timbuktu and the international community for the destruction of world heritage sites. 

In addition to such Court-ordered reparation programmes, the Trust Fund may provide reparative measures to victims of crimes in a situation before the Court, regardless of personal accountability. We have called it the assistance programme. The Trust Fund has provided such measures to tens of thousandsof victims in the DRC and northern Uganda since 2008, and more recently in the Central African Republic and Côte d’Ivoire as part of its non-judicial reparationsmandate. In 2021 alone, the Trust Fund provided reparative measures to more than 17,000 direct beneficiaries across those programmes. 

In West Africa, in particular, the Trust Fund is conductingreparation programmes in Côte d’Ivoire and Mali, two countries where a reasonable basis to consider the existence of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC has been established by the Court. The Court acquitted two accused persons in the Côte d’Ivoire situation, ended one trial with a conviction and is conducting one trial in relation to crimes committed in Timbuktu, Mali. In Mali, the Trust Fund is currently implementing Court-ordered reparations by providing symbolic, collective and individual reparations to the many victims of the destruction of the mausoleums in Timbuktu. It is about to start its non-judicial reparations programme for the benefit of victims in other parts of Mali. The Trust Fund is focusing on the harm suffered by victims of 11 incidents in Côte d’Ivoire and will bring non-judicial reparations to these victims over the next months. 

African victims, including those from West Africa, of war crimes and crimes against humanity currently constitute the only victims benefiting from the Trust Fund’s activities. In total, the Trust Fund currentlyhas 29 implementing partners, which are active in five African states. Working for a positive, healthy and sustainable peace in Africa is of paramount importance. Reparations are also about shaping the society of tomorrow through societal impact of reparations that have not only an individual but also a social, gender and community dimension.

Beyond that, the reparations implemented by the Trust Fund are essential to the reception of the Court and the Rome Statute system as a whole in situation countries and are part of the justice delivered by the Court. In particular,

  1. They make justice tangible for the victims of the cases before the Court and show that the Court and the international community is serious about redressing harm suffered by victims.This way, victims can feel recognised and satisfied. 
  2. Even if specific individuals cannot be held accountable, including by the Court, the Trust Fund can provide non-judicial reparations to victims; this is the approach of the Trust Fund in Côte d’Ivoire and Central African Republic.
  3. The Trust Fund’s programmes support the Court’s impact and gender mainstreaming as non-judicial reparation programmes reach victims, in particular those of sexual and gender-based violence, outside the select number of cases before the Court.

To be successful in providing these reparations, the cooperation of states is critical. States have the obligation to cooperate with the Court pursuant to Part 9 of the Rome Statute. In addition, the 2005 Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy call upon states themselves to provide reparations to the victims. Such national programmes are currently underway in Côte d’Ivoire and Mali, which is highly commendable; the Trust Fund closely engages with States and shares its expertise in this respect. In the context of the reparations it implements, the Trust Fund has developed an institutional practice of consultation and coordination within states that is multifaceted and fosters increased cooperation with the authorities of the situation countries concerned, and where appropriate, and with civil society organizations.

There is clearly a need for States to radically increase their voluntary contributions. I would like to ask, in particular, the representatives of African States here today at this conference, including the Representative of my country, the Attorney-General of Sierra Leone to strengthen African support for the Trust Fund for Victims by making voluntary contributions to the TFV. I regret to inform this conference that only six of the 33 States Parties of the African group of states have to date made voluntary contributions to the Trust Fund, of which Senegal is the highest contributor. For the period, 2021 to 2022, no African State has made voluntary contribution to the TFV. This is a regrettable state of affairs considering that the TFV has carried out 100% of its work of reparation and assistance on our continent. Africa needs to contribute to the TFV and needs to take financial ownership of reparations and assistance programs to victims on the continent.

Given the indigence of most of the convicted persons, reparations to the victims are only possible through voluntary contributions to the Trust Fund for Victims. Thank you for considering your engagement with the TFV be it symbolic or otherwise, for the cause of the victims. Your contributions will allow the TFV to actively contribute to making the Rome Statute’s promise of reparative justice and the right to reparations a reality for victims.

The implementation of reparations for crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction is still new. Let us together make them a reality for victims. I welcome the opportunity provided by this conference, that States, the Court, the Trust Fund and many other actors can share experiences. I am looking forward to our common exploration of the issues and challenges related to cooperation and to complementarity and, for the first time in such a setting, it’s reparative ramifications.

Let me conclude by once again calling on the African States to make contributions to the TFV of the ICC for the sake of the victims on the continent. This remit of this conference is “complementarity in the fight against Rome Statute Crimes” but I would be remiss in my duty if I do not pose the question; complementarity and cooperation to what end? The answer is simple: to provide justice for the victims of crimes with the jurisdiction of the court. This is not a fundraising event but I strongly believe that as I conclude this statement, the TFV will receive contributions or commitment of contributions to the TFV by the Distinguished Representatives of African States here present.

I thank you very much.

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