In research for my new book, Commentary on the Rome Statute, which should be completed later this year and available early next year, I have been reviewing the various documents of the International Criminal Court concerning the participation of victims in the proceedings. A glance at the website, especially the various proceedings of the Court, will give some idea of the large scale of victim participation. This is only a guess, but I suspect that there are more lawyers acting on behalf of the victims in the ongoing proceedings than there are lawyers acting on behalf of both the Prosecutor and the defence combined.
How much does this all cost? I came across a document issued by the Committee on Budget and Finance of the Assembly of States Parties, which provides the main oversight of how money is spent at the Court. The Proposed Programme Budget for 2008, issued in July 2007 (ICC-ASP/6/8), estimated that out of approximately EUR 100 million, some EUR 14 million was required for ‘victims and witnesses’ (see p. 6). It is not clear how the figure was arrived at. There may be other more hidden costs involved in witness participation that are reflected in the length and complexity of the proceedings occasioned by victim participation. I suspect that the relative importance of victim-related costs continues to increase as well.
Of course, the main financial centre for victims is supposed to be the Trust Fund for Victims, established in accordance with article 79 of the Rome Statute. According to its last report, the Trust Fund totals about EUR 3 million, composed essentially of contributions from several wealthy States. For a couple of years, these amounted to about EUR 1 million a year, but the amount has now declined to EUR 500,000 for the most recent fiscal year. Here’s the problem: the administration costs of this fund amount to about EUR 700,000 per year!
Does any of this make sense? We have an enormous apparatus engaged in supporting ‘victims’, but maybe the ‘victims’ would prefer to see the money themselves. If the international community has EUR 15 million per annum to devote to ‘victims’ in the Congo and Uganda, the money might be better spent on a new hospital or a school. Right now, the main beneficiaries of our efforts to help the ‘victims’ would appear to be international civil servants, lawyers and airline companies.
I really doubt that when the Rome Statute was adopted in 1998, those who participated in the negotiations ever imagined that victim participation would involve so much in terms of resources and would deliver so little in concrete terms to the victims themselves.