Comment on the Victims Lecture Question: “Assuming that the ICC chooses to retain victim participation in its processes, how can victims’ representation at the ICC be improved and victims’ rights be protected?”
According to Ms. Ferstman, there are mixed opinions about the participation (the ability of those who suffered harm as a result of the accused's crime(s) to present "views and concerns") of victims in ICC processes. On one hand, victims can be a valuable asset to the prosecution, add a humanizing effect to the case, and in some ways provide a manner of closure for themselves and other victims who seek personal justice.
On the other hand, victim participation can also be detrimental to court processes. For example, the ICC received 20,000 applications from victims who wish to participate, which take enormous amounts of time and money to evaluate. The court process itself is emotionally taxing on victims, and there have been many instances (such as the two mentioned by Ms. Ferstman in her lecture) where the rights of victims have been abused. Back in the regions from where victims are recruited, grassroots organizations are necessary intermediaries to assist potential candidates with applications. In addition, these organizations rely on expensive security from groups and individuals who may wish to violently avenge the accused.
Thus, when it comes to the participation of victims in ICC proceedings, one must consider whether a system can be arranged in which the benefits of victim participation outweigh the costs.
I believe that such a system that allows for participation is not only possible but crucial to the ICC. Laws, especially international laws, are created not just on political basis but on moral standards as well, that not only state sovereignty but human rights must be protected. Victims are an important element of any ICC prosecution, because they present a unique perspective of the human toll of the accused's actions. And if a goal of the ICC is to increase the protection of international human rights, then rights of victims must be a priority within court proceedings.
The protection of these rights can best be protected by improved communication and relationships between lawyers and the victims that they represent. Lawyers will gain access to a deeper, more detailed understanding of the victims' experiences, which will improve their cases.
The inclusion of victims in ICC proceedings and the protection of victims' rights are costly but indispensable to the success and legitimacy of the ICC in years to come.
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