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International court reassures Uganda LRA victims on reparations

Kampala — An official of the International Criminal Court has promised victims of Uganda’s rebel Lord’s Resistance Army that the court will provide reparations that were promised after the conviction of a top LRA leader. However, the Tribunal Trust Fund does not have enough money to make the payments, and now some victims worry other world conflicts are drawing down donor funds.

ICC Registrar Osvaldo Zavala Giler, speaking to the media Tuesday in Uganda, assured victims of the violent, long-running LRA rebellion that the court would do as much as possible to ensure victims get their reparations.

In February, ICC judges ordered $56 million in reparations to recognize the harm suffered by 50,000 victims of war crimes for which Dominic Ongwen has been convicted. Those include murder, rape, forced marriage, and the recruitment of child soldiers.

Giler’s commitment comes despite Ongwen’s appeal of his conviction.  Giler said while the appeal is still pending, the ICC will continue efforts to raise funds to pay the reparations and comply with the court order. He also indicated not all victims would receive payments at the same time.

“And that will depend on the fundraising efforts of the trust fund to do this. I am confident that there is enough interest in the international donor-based community to support the effort of the trust fund in trying to achieve its goals,” said Giler.

Speaking to VOA before meeting the ICC registrar, Bishop Nelson Onono-Onweng, a community leader from Gulu district, said what he is hearing from the ICC is worrying.

Bishop Onono said the promised $795 per person allocation for the 50,000 victims is too little, yet the ICC has no money.

“So, if it comes now it will be great. But, we are told they are still raising the money. Fundraising today as you know with the war in the world. I don’t know. But, personally I am worried. Because the international community is now overwhelmed with the needs in the world to support the suffering people,” he said.

Peter Labeja, a journalist from Gulu district, lost his father during the 20-year rebellion. He was also abducted but was lucky to escape.   

Labeja told VOA victims still have questions on how the money will be shared.

“Who is going to take the money? Is it the head of the family taking the money or the entire group in the household taking the money? And, we were quick to calculate. We said this is about three-million shillings in Uganda. What can three-million shillings do? It can’t even send a child to the university for two semesters,” he said.

The community remains hopeful that the communal reparation will be used to build schools and health facilities and improve roads.

Victims will have to wait until September, not for the money, but for the ICC to prepare the implementation plan now being developed.

Dominic Ongwen is serving his 25-year prison sentence in Norway. The LRA fought the Ugandan government for 20 years resulting in the deaths of about 100,000 people.

Meanwhile, 19 years after an arrest warrant was issued for LRA leader Joseph Kony, the ICC pre-trial chamber has set October 15 to hold a hearing confirming charges against him. But according to ICC Mofficials, Kony qualifies as a person who cannot be found so no confirmation hearing can be held.

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