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2011 | Justice and Reconciliation Project - IJR, Policy Brief, “Pay Us So We Can Forget”: Reparations for Victims and Affected Communities in Northern Uganda

This policy brief was written on the basis of consultations with victims of the war in greater northern Uganda regarding what are the most pressing reparation needs. It finds that victims and affected communities hold the Government responsible for failing to protect them against violations and that therefor they consider them responsible for awarding reparations. 

With regards to the right to reparations under the Rome Statute, respondents were concerned about what they consider a lack of transparency about the disbursement of funds by the ICC Trust Fund for Victims. Others expressed a lack of understanding with regards to the procedures. 

Victims’ expectations of reparations is summarised as follows:

  1. Compensation and livelihoods: Victims believe their current dire livelihood situation, negatively impacted by the war, should be improved by monetary compensation and restitution by the Government of Uganda with support and backing from the international community and NGOs. They favoured the provision of items that are necessary for survival, such as agricultural tools, communal water and sanitary services in the context of livelihood programmes.
  2. Education: Conflict-induced displacement, abduction and closure of schools disrupted the education of an entire generation. Even now, due to economic difficulties, parents often lack resources for school fees. For these reasons, victims expressed the need for access to education as a reparations measure.
  3. Medical care and psychosocial support: Many victims suffer from debilitating physical and psychological scars but lack the resources to seek adequate care. They feel access to this care should be ensured as a means of reparations.
  4. Acknowledgement: The Government of Uganda was called upon to recognise the suffering of victims, as a means to help them with a process of forgiveness and moving forward in life. 
  5. Memorialisation: Victims feel that memorialisation activities can help teach future generations about the dangers of war, pay tribute to the dead and achieve healing.

Way forward

The report concludes that there is an urgent need for a national reparations policy and that post-conflict recovery and development programmes cannot substitute reparations. For government initiatives to be counted as reparations they need to include consultations with victims, and contain elements of acknowledgement of state responsibility. Ad hoc reparation measures for selected victims and victims groups that were not backed by a policy have caused confusion and division. There were concerns regarding a lack of transparency and the fact that such reparations came shortly before elections.

The policy brief ends with recommendations to JLOS on the need to create a national reparations policy, including public acknowledgement, the use of alternative/traditional justice mechanisms and the need to put in place laws for the award of reparations by judicial organs. The ICC is urged to engage in dialogue concerning the establishment of principles regarding reparations and activities that are aimed specifically at informing victims and affected communities.