ICC awards DR Congo child soldiers $10m in damages

The fund will also provide medical and psychological treatment to victims. (Reuters)
Updated 16 December 2017
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ICC awards DR Congo child soldiers $10m in damages

THE HAGUE: International war crimes judges on Friday awarded $10 million in landmark reparations to “hundreds or thousands” of former child soldiers left brutalized and stigmatized after being conscripted into a ruthless Congolese militia.
Warlord Thomas Lubanga, 56, was jailed for 14 years after being convicted in 2012 at the International Criminal Court (ICC) of abducting boys and girls and press-ganging them into his Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) in the eastern Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).
The judges said Friday that Lubanga, who is serving his sentence in a Congolese prison, was also liable for compensation to 425 victims, identified by the court. At the time of the crimes in 2002-2003, all were under 15.
They stressed, though, that it was difficult to determine the exact number of child soldiers drawn into Lubanga’s militia — many of whom were exploited as bodyguards or sex slaves — saying there were “hundreds or even thousands of additional victims.”
Each of the 425 named victims had suffered harm amounting to $8,000, giving a total of $3.4 million, presiding judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut said.
But in a surprise move, the judges then awarded a further $6.6 million to help any others who may now come forward.
The award is collective, and will be used in projects to help victims rebuild their lives and integrate back into society.
Local rights groups welcomed the award, saying it was a relief for victims, many of whom are now in their 30s with children of their own.
“What is important to us, is not the amount attached to this award... the main thing is that it has been recognized that there are victims in this case,” said Xavier Maki from the Justice Plus group.
The award, equivalent to €8.5 million, will be administered by the independent Trust Fund for Victims, which has already drawn up a three-year project to help Lubanga’s victims, and set aside €1 million for the case.
Fund director Pieter de Baan told AFP the $10 million award was a victory for the victims.
“It is really important that this is an acknowledgement that if harm is suffered on a mass scale by victims, you need to take it seriously, you need to recognize that and you need to put an amount to it,” he said.
But the fund, which is solely supported by donations from ICC member states, said it would be “challenging” to come up with the money, after the court also declared Lubanga penniless.
“We don’t have $10 million. We didn’t know what was coming, we had no idea. We have in our reserves €5.5 million,” he said, adding he would be appealing for more funds from ICC member-states.
The fund will assess the needs of each victim, and provide medical and psychological treatment. Other forms of help will include educational and vocational training.
The NGO Child Soldiers International, which works to stop children being used in conflicts, welcomed Friday’s award as the “recognition of the great suffering experienced by the children exploited and abused” by Lubanga.
They hoped it would “act as a catalyst in showing that those who recruit and exploit children in conflict will be held accountable for their crimes,” said program manager Sandra Olsson.
Ituri remains “a highly militarised province” and the use of child recruits remains prevalent, she warned, urging the authorities and international bodies “to ramp up” efforts to free children and prosecute abusers. Lubanga can appeal the decision, and his lawyers have argued he should not pay anything.
“Who are these victims that the court is going to compensate?” asked Pele Kaswara Tahigomu, a leading member of Lubanga’s party in Bunia, adding the ruling was “just another move against” Lubanga.
Lubanga’s is the ICC’s third reparations award. In March, judges awarded $250 each to 297 victims of another Congolese warlord, Germain Katanga.
And in August, the court ruled a Malian militants caused €2.7 million in damage when he destroyed several Timbuktu shrines in 2012.


Supreme Court nominee accuser agrees to testify before US Senate

According to President Trump, the fact that Ford remained silent until now shows the incident probably never happened. (AP)
Updated 23 September 2018
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Supreme Court nominee accuser agrees to testify before US Senate

  • Christine Blasey Ford’s decision followed days of negotiations and came after Trump turned against her and said her accusation could not be true
  • Ford alleges that Kavanaugh drunkenly assaulted her at a party when he was 17, she was 15 and they were attending private schools outside Washington in the 1980s

WASHINGTON: The woman whose sexual assault allegation threatens to bring down President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee has agreed to testify in the Senate, her lawyers said Saturday, setting up a dramatic showdown next week.
Christine Blasey Ford’s decision followed days of negotiations and came after Trump turned against her and said her accusation could not be true.
Ford “accepts the committee’s request to provide her first-hand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct next week,” said a message from her lawyers to the Senate Judiciary Committee, US media reported.
Hours later, multiple outlets including Politico and The Daily Beast reported the hearing would take place on Thursday, citing sources familiar with a phone call between the committee and Ford’s lawyers.
The tentative deal capped a day of frenetic developments, with time running out for Trump to get his hand-picked conservative judge confirmed — thereby tilting the Supreme Court firmly to the right for years to come — before November elections when Republicans risk losing control of Congress.
Earlier, the panel had given the California professor until 2:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) to decide whether to appear, after she rejected a Friday evening deadline imposed by the committee’s Republican leader, Chuck Grassley.
“Although many aspects of the proposal you provided via email, on (Friday) are fundamentally inconsistent with the committee’s promise of a fair, impartial investigation into her allegations, and we are disappointed with the leaks and the bullying that have tainted the process, we are hopeful that we can reach agreement on details,” read the lawyers’ letter cited by The Washington Post.
The White House criticized Ford for allegedly dithering. “But one thing has remained consistent: Brett Kavanaugh remains ready, willing and eager to testify as soon as possible,” it added.

Ford alleges that Kavanaugh drunkenly assaulted her at a party when he was 17, she was 15 and they were attending private schools outside Washington in the 1980s.
Kavanaugh denies knowledge of any such assault and wants to give his side of the story to the committee.
Grassley had wanted the hearing to take place on Wednesday, but Ford asked that it be held on Thursday at the earliest and to be able to call as a witness a man she says was present during the assault.
The committee’s Republican leadership turned down those demands.
After several days of maintaining a relatively neutral posture, Trump on Friday declared that Ford was lying.
“TAKE THE VOTE!” Trump tweeted, blaming “radical left wing politicians” for the controversy.

According to Trump, the fact that Ford remained silent until now shows the incident probably never happened — even if this runs counter to what experts say is the typical reaction of sexual assault victims afraid or too embarrassed to report.
“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says,” Trump tweeted, “charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”
The senior senator for Trump’s Democratic foes, Chuck Schumer, called the president’s logic a “highly offensive misunderstanding of surviving trauma,” while Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said: “We must treat sexual assault survivors with respect, not bully or try to silence them.”
Even one of Trump’s own Republican senators, Susan Collins — who sits on the Judiciary Committee — said she was “appalled by the president’s tweet.”
“We know that allegations of sexual assault are some of the most under-reported crimes that exist,” Collins said.
Trump’s outburst saw a new #MeToo era hashtag storm the Internet, with people — mostly women — sharing why they did not report being assaulted under the Twitter hashtag #WhyIDidntReport.
Ford told the Post she went public with her claims because she felt her “civic responsibility” was “outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation” after the basic outlines of the story emerged in the media.
Ford’s husband, Russell Ford, was quoted by the Post as saying the thought that Kavanaugh could be considered for the Supreme Court after Trump took office troubled his wife so much that she considered moving as far away as New Zealand.
“She was like, ‘I can’t deal with this,’” Russell Ford said. “’I cannot live in this country if he’s in the Supreme Court.’“
Republicans are frustrated over what they say was the deliberate timing of the last-minute revelation of Ford’s allegation, accusing Democrats of seeking to prevent the process from finishing before the midterm elections in a few weeks.
For their part, Democrats say Republicans are mounting an unseemly rush to get Kavanaugh into the nine-member Supreme Court while they still control the legislature.
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