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?”
Carla Ferstman offered a refreshingly different perspective on the ICC - I appreciated her focus on the victims of the crimes rather than emphasizing the politics behind the court. Yes, the politics are important because they shaped the character and role of the ICC, but if the court's ultimate purpose is to rectify horrendous crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity, then it is of crucial importance to include those who fell victim to the crimes in the process.
The politics of the ICC often constrain the courts focus on the victims. This probably has to do with the fact that previous courts, such as the tribunals created for Rwanda and Yugoslavia, did not have a strong or independent role for victims. In a court that clearly emphasizes human rights, however, it is of crucial importance for both legitimacy and proper functioning that the court adhere to each victim's right to have their voice heard.
The current process of involving victims in the trials is confusing. If the victims are going to be able to play a role in the trials, a new system needs to be implemented to sort through the thousands of victims and support them in their efforts to support the ICC's trials. Both the geographic separation of the crimes and the court and the large number of victims at hand does makes Involving victims messy and expensive. Their participation, however, is crucial and should enable the ICC to yield more successful convictions because of the additional evidence these individuals will bring to the table. The organization of the victims in the trials is also important. Victims should be grouped according to their opinions and the key points they want to leave with the court. Then, individuals should be chosen to represent each segment with the group's support. I believe the two tiered system, with both general and individual concerns, is the best way to hear each side of the story without overwhelming the court with multiple speakers for each point. The ICC's identification and support of the victims will begin their process of coming to terms with the crimes that have been committed against them and moving forward as an international legal body acknowledges their status as victims and displays a willingness to hear their stories.
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