The United Kingdom became the largest single state-contributor to the International Criminal Court’s victims' fund this week. But winning this venerable label was not expensive.
The Trust Fund for Victims (TVF) seeks to play a diverse role in relieving the suffering of victims of war. It currently funds services in northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, including trauma counselling and reconstructive surgery, offered to an estimated 75,000 victims of crimes under the ICC’s jurisdiction. It claims to be a unique and unprecedented organization and many observers see its goals as highly noble.
But a major concern is the TVF’s annual budget which is currently a mere 2 million euros. The UK’s “large” contribution was, even more merely, just over half a million euros.
Does the organization have enough resources? Director of TVF Pieter de Baan: “Obviously not! We don’t have at this particular moment, but we are happy with whatever we have received so far”.
Very modest contributions
Contributions from many of the world’s richest countries run into no more than the hundreds of thousands. Bottom of the list is Jordan with a donation of 8000 euros. The sums involved here are in stark contrast to the costs, borne by those same ICC member states, of bringing cases to court.
The ICC spends 100 million euros per year on prosecuting the alleged perpetrators of crimes against humanity committed around the world. It is not possible to meaningfully compare the values of judicial justice with victim support - but is the balance correct?
TVF Director Pieter de Baan: “Indeed, the balance seems to be skewed… we intend to improve the resource base of the fund, and to have a more aggressive fund-raising approach”.
The TVF’s second mandate is to seek financial compensation for victims from the perpetrators of war crimes themselves. Once convicted their funds will be seized. The idea of brutal dictators’ slush funds being shared among victims is one which will easily find currency with the general public. Assuming the funds in question have not been spirited away beforehand.
Proponents of the TVF argue that with two strong 'raison d’etres' it deserves vastly increased funding. But that seems likely to depend on how aggressively the profile of the organization is raised.
The ICC's victims' fund began life with considerable fanfare. The international media were invited along to see Queen Rania of Jordan bring her country's donation to the fund in The Hague in 2003. Unfortunately, the Queen's bodyguards were so zealously protective of her that journalists couldn't get their microphones close enough to the royal mouth to record her statement.
South Africa's Desmond Tutu attended the openinig of the TVF in The Hague in 2004 - the revered Bishop regaled the media with his wit and repartie at an elaborate dinner, the apparant expense of which to many present was somewhat out of step with the modest funds availble to the trust fund.