chapter  5
21 Pages

It doesn’t go away with time: victims’ need for reparation following crimes against humanity AMISSI M . MANIRABONA AND J O - ANNE M . WEMMERS

Crimes against humanity are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population. They include murder, imprisonment, torture, the enforced disappearance of people, and political persecution. These crimes often have a political dimension; because of this it can take years before victims are acknowledged, and sometimes they never are fully recognized, as new governments may prefer amnesty to prosecution. Yet victims often continue to ask for reparation long after the occurrence of crimes. For example, it took more than 40 years to see the adoption of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 providing an apology and reparations to Japanese Americans for the US internment policy during World War II. Similarly, over 60 years after the end of World War II, Holocaust survivors and their descendents continue to ask for reparation including restitution of stolen property (Project Heart 2013). Even though slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, in recent years there have been attempts by African Americans, descendants of victims of slavery, to obtain reparation from companies and individuals involved in slavery-related victimizations (Hylton 2004). These examples show that victims continue to ask for reparation long after the actual crimes have occurred and that reparation can take on many different forms, from an apology to restitution. The International Criminal Court (ICC), whose mandate includes provisions for reparation for victims of crimes against humanity, is currently struggling with how to give form to this right. In this chapter we will examine what constitutes reparation for victims of crimes against humanity and, in particular, what victims seek in terms of reparation many years after victimization. The systematic and widespread nature of crimes against humanity means that by definition they involve mass victimization. It is important to bear in mind that when victimization is widespread, entire communities are victimized in addition to individual victims. Within a community, any one person may have experienced multiple victimizations directly as well as have family, friends and neighbors who experienced multiple victimizations. According to the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, which were adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2006,

Victims are people who individually or collectively suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that constitute gross violations of international human rights law, or serious violations of international humanitarian law. . . . The term “victim” also includes the immediate family or dependants of the direct victim and persons who have suffered harm in intervening to assist victims in distress or to prevent victimization.