Introduction




Mass grave at “killing fields” of Cambodia. Photo from Thinkstock.com



The International Criminal Court goes much further than previous tribunals in attempting to place victims at the center of the criminal justice proceeding. Unlike prior international tribunals such as the ones for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda , the Rome Statute allows victim participation at trial and even provides legal aid to victims to ensure their representation. Perpetrators may be liable to provide victims with restitution, and the Registry Division of the Court administers a trust fund to benefit victims and their communities. Whereas retributive justice involves the state and the offender in a legal process directed towards determination of guilt and punishment, restorative justice involves victims, community members and other stakeholders in a collective enterprise of conflict resolution (Findlay et al. 2013: 108). Like any criminal court, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutions are premised on the legal culpability of the accused person. Are the International Criminal Court’s attempts to involve victims in this proceeding truly worthwhile, or are they simply window dressing? The Court’s involvement of victims is somewhat selective, to be sure, and some observers have advocated participation at every stage of the criminal proceeding, from the decision to begin an investigation to the post-trial process. Restorative justice, though, is not simply about victims; its mission is to restore communities as well, and the trust fund aims to do that through grants and benefits for local services. Whether the International Criminal Court is contributing to a new restorative justice model remains to be seen, but domestic systems may have much to learn from the Court’s experiments in victim participation, reparations , and community involvement, features that will be explored in later chapters.