ICC issues decision on reparations for victims in the Lubanga case, including girls and boys affected by the Ituri conflict

On 7 August 2012, the ICC issued its first decision on principles for reparations for victims in the Lubanga case. Thomas Lubanga, former warlord in the Ituri region of eastern DRC, was found guilty in March 2012 of the war crime of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities. The conviction of Lubanga not only sets important international jurisprudence on the war crime of recruiting and using children, it also makes a significant contribution to the development of the right to reparations in international law.

The ICC’s decision on reparations is an important breakthrough. It signals that justice for children includes far more than punishing a perpetrator and should also focus on the restoration of their rights and reparation to address loss of family, education and livelihood. For many children reparations could provide more immediate accountability, enable community reconciliation and assist them to move on with their lives. Through reparations programs, the experiences of a significantly larger number of victims, and the loss and harm from a wider range of violations, can be acknowledged and repaired.

There are, nevertheless, significant challenges to the implementation of reparations programmes, including the financial and human resources, expectations of the victims and the decision on the nature of the reparative measures. In addition, reparations initiatives should also bear in mind that victims may face stigmatization as former child soldier or forced wife, leading to the social exclusion of especially girl child soldiers.