The International Victimology Institute Tilburg promotes and executes interdisciplinary research that can contribute to a comprehensive, evidence-based body of knowledge on the empowerment and support of victims of crime and abuse of power.

International Victimology Institute Tilburg

INTERVICT promotes and executes interdisciplinary research that can contribute to a comprehensive, evidence-based body of knowledge on the empowerment and support of victims of crime and abuse of power.

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Summary of the Expert Meeting “Responding to Victimization in Cambodia and Congo: The Case of the ECC and ICC” by Nadia Banteka

On April 13, 2018 the INTERVICT Reparations Initiative (IRI) held an expert meeting on “Responding to Victimization in Cambodia and Congo: The Case of the ECC and ICC.” This meeting formed part of the NWO funded project of assessing the contribution of international law to repairing harm through judicial proceedings and was co-organised by IRI team members Alina Balta and Marola Vaes.

The meeting started early with an introduction by Professor Rianne Letschert on the case selection of the project, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), the European Court of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The focus of the project is on the courts’ underlying assumptions of contributing to justice, as well as their impact on the experience of victims and contribution to societal reconstruction. Rianne put forward the IRI’s theoretical framework which is based on the Sanskrit conceptions of justice of niti and nyaya, representing an arrangement/procedural focused view of justice and a realization focused view of justice respectively. Finally, she explained how this framework informs the narrative methodology applied in the empirical research of the project, which queries the experiences of beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries of reparation measures in Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Cyprus and Guatemala.

Reparations project Intervict column nadia banteka

After the introduction, it was the turn of our invited experts to offer their insights on relevant issues relating to the ECCC and the ICC in a morning and afternoon session, respectively. In the morning session, Christoph Sperfeldt addressed collective reparations at the ECCC discussing the differences between Case 1 and Case 2 in the numbers of civil parties represented, the solely collective and moral nature of reparations in Case 1, and the changes in the legal framework for reparations from Case 1 to Case 2. Christoph emphasized the strong impetus after Case 1 of effectiveness that became a priority for Case 2 that blurred the line between reparations and non-judicial assistance and yielded a flexible approach to beneficiaries of collective reparations.

Reparations project Intervict column nadia banteka

Then, Sopheap Taing and Chariya Om, representing our Cambodian research partner Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO), took the floor. They discussed the psychological effects of trauma on survivors of the atrocities in Cambodia and illustrated the difficulties in addressing mass trauma in the context of individualized trauma measures. They emphasized the limited number of studies on how Cambodians respond to trauma and highlighted the Cambodian idiom of Baksbat or “broken courage”: an expression of post-traumatic stress among Cambodians following intense fear, distress or a life-threatening situation, which causes a psychological break down of courage. They presented results of TPO’s mental health program as highly effective for the improvement of survivors’ psychological condition. Based on her expertise and recent experience as an interviewer for our project, Ms. Sopheap furthermore identified significant challenges in the ECCC’s outreach activity to Civil Parties, and its relation to victims’ lack of knowledge about and skepticism towards the process of the ECCC.

Susan Lamb then took the floor to provide insights on the reform of the system of victim participation at the ECCC, including the aspects of victim participation, nature of representation of civil parties, and administrative constrains. Susan spoke of the challenges of prosecuting 40 years old crimes with old accused (challenges of language, funding, etc., that could interrupt proceedings) and the differences between Case 1 and Case 2 in order to manage the numbers of participating civil parties. Susan finally spoke of three limbs of reparations challenges: (1) reparations through donor funding and project management; (2) compilation of victim requests that required the Cambodian government’s attention; and the (3) inability to affect civil participation constraints.

The morning session was concluded by INTERVICT’s Alina Balta, Marola Vaes, and Manon Bax who presented their current research on the ECCC and the legal nature of reparations. First, Alina introduced reparative justice, as a type of justice provided by means of reparations through the ECCC. In her theoretical framework she argues that reparative justice is the sum of procedural and substantive justice and, thus, she discussed the data she has collected for the ECCC within this lens. Second, Marola Vaes introduced the narrative design and methodology of the empirical research, outlining the characteristics of the narrative interview in which beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries participate as well as the project’s coding strategy for qualitative, narrative analysis. At last she shared the first thematic, structural, and interactional observations based on a preliminary analysis of the data gathered in Cambodia. Finally, Manon Bax presented the method she is using in her research on collective reparations; the qualitative content analysis. This method is useful as it helps to systematically analyze data from a wide variety of courts and truth commissions, whereby patterns, developments and relations in and betwen the court cases and reports can be found. 

Reparations project Intervict column nadia banteka

Following a roundtable discussion moderated by Professor Antony Pemberton on the Cambodian situation, the group broke for lunch and further reflections on the fruitful morning presentations and discussions.  Upon return, the afternoon session switched gears from Cambodia and the ECCC to DRC and the ICC.  Senator/ Professor Ruhigwa Baguma and Mr. Kakoraki Baguma from Ituri took the floor and discussed reparations in the context of ongoing conflict in Ituri. .  The two local experts questioned whether the ICC’s impact in Ituri is sufficient, and identified challenges pertaining to victim outreach, selection and admissibility, the indigence of accused persons, and the particularities of child soldiers due to their double character as perpetrators and victims. They also emphasized the particularities of sexual violence crimes in the region.

Then Pieter de Baan and Erin Rosenberg from the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims (TFV)  took the floor and addressed the nature of reparations and their connection to harm and conviction of the accused, the meaning of collective reparations, the role and rights of the defense when victim identification happens post-order, and the role of the legal representative post-order.

Professor Stephan Parmentier had the difficult task to reflect   on the presentations of the local experts from Ituri and the account of the TFV representatives. Inspired by their narratives he asked for discussion on the following two questions: Firstly, what is the impact of doing research in an area taunted by ongoing violence? In the same context, he further questioned: Which (categories of) victims are selected by the TFV and how? He followed with adding his expert opinion to the matter, most notably stressing the normative character of the concept of ‘reparation’ and its inherent symbolic value. Prof. Parmentier ended on the inquisitive note: What is really the objective of reparations? 

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After a roundtable discussion on the DRC situation moderated by Professor Letschert, Dr. Nadia Banteka wrapped up the expert meeting identifying three challenges facing reparations: fragmentation, legality, and belonging with trials while raising the question whether coherence is a necessity for the concept of reparations and fragmentation is always a disadvantage. After the fruitful discussions, the group met for a lovely dinner to continue the conversations. Following the very positive feedback the group has received, the IRI team declared the Expert Meeting a successful one – mainly because it brought together experts on reparations and fostered much needed discussions.