Reparations

Right to reparation for victims : Signals for hope?

Basic Principles
Reparation claims for victims of international crimes continue to experience positive developments in many countries.  Following 30 million dollar  compensations offered by the British Government to Kenya’s Mau Mau victims of colonial period abuses last month,  the Cambodian government also approved  some symbolic reparation for victims of Khmer rouge on Saturday 22nd  of June 2013.(http://www.voacambodia.com/content/reparation-measures-for-khmer-rouge-victims-approved/1686931.html )
These consecutive decisions  send again strong signals of hope to several victims of most heinous  crimes  including survivors of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda  who are yet see their right to reparation meaningfully honored.

Reparation is a principle of law that has existed for centuries, referring to the obligation of a wrongdoing party to redress the damage caused to the injured party. Under international law, “reparation must, as far as possible, wipe out all the consequences of the illegal act and re-establish the situation which would, in all probability, have existed if that act had not been committed.  The right is also firmly embodied in international human rights treaties and declarative instruments and has been further refined by the jurisprudence of a large number of international and regional courts, as well as other treaty bodies and complaints mechanisms.

In 2005, the UN General Assembly adopted the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. These Principles constitute a significant contribution to the codification of norms relating to the right to reparation.The  Basic Principles describes five formal categories of reparations: restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition.
1. Restitution – measures which serve to “restore the victim to the original situation before the gross violations…occurred.” This can include: restoration of liberty, enjoyment of human rights, identity, family life and citizenship, return of one’s place of residence, restoration of employment, and return of property.
2. Damages Compensation – the provision of compensation “for any economically assessable damage, as appropriate and proportional to the gravity of the violation and the circumstances of each case.” Such damage includes: physical or mental harm, lost opportunities, material damages and loss of earnings, moral damage, cost of legal, medical, psychological, and social services.
3. Rehabilitation – medical, psychological, social services, and legal assistance
4. Satisfaction – various measures which include the cessation of human rights violations and abuses, truth-seeking, searches for the disappeared, recovery and reburial of remains, judicial and administrative sanctions, public apologies, commemoration, and memorialization.
5. Guarantees of non-repetition – reforms ensuring the prevention of future abuses, including: civilian control of the military and security forces, strengthening an independent judiciary, protection of civil service and human rights workers, the overall promotion of human rights standards, and the establishment of mechanisms to prevent and monitor social conflict and conflict resolution.
Like Noam Schimmel, recently  wrote  in huffington post,  As the twentieth anniversary of the genocide against Tutsi  approaches the Government of Rwanda and the international community must acknowledge that adequate reparation for survivors of the 1994 genocide, is as imperative now as it has always been and even more so. Now is the time for decisive and bold leadership and action.
Posted by Al.G

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