Victims first


"...during this century millions of children, women, and men have been victims of unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity" - Rome Statute preamble.


Victims of grave crimes are the reason the ICC exists. The Rome Statute empowers victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide to hold their persecutors to account and live with hope, dignity and respect.  

The creation of a system of retributive and restorative justice that recognizes victims as its ultimate beneficiaries is largely due to the tireless efforts of civil society organizations at the Rome conference in 1998. Recent years, however, have seen the system’s restorative emphasis undermined by financial and political constraints.

Civil society is now laying down a new marker for all stakeholders in the Rome Statute system to recommit to a victims-centered approach. By so doing, we can ensure that ICC judgments do not amount to mere pronouncements of law, but have a tangible impact in the betterment of the lives of those who have already lost so much.


Victims in the ICC system

The ICC is the first international court to give victims the right to participate in trial proceedings. Victims can — through a Court- or self-appointed legal representative — present their views and concerns. The Rome Statute also establishes victims’ rights to seek and receive reparations. 

Reparations are not limited to monetary compensation. They can come in many forms, including rehabilitation. Reparations are decided by the Court’s judges and — when ordered by the judges — administered by the Trust Fund for Victims.  

The Court provides victims with protective measures, counseling, and other assistance if need be. Victims also have a right to be informed about the proceedings in which they have an interest. 


The Trust Fund for Victims

Established under the Rome Statute, the Trust Fund for Victims has two missions:

  • To implement reparations when ordered by the Court’s judges; and
  • To provide general assistance, including physical rehabilitation, material support, and/or psychological rehabilitation to victims while proceedings carry on.

Court-ordered reparations can come from the convicted person’s assets. When the convicted person has little or no assets, the Trust Fund can also contribute to reparations to victims.

The Trust Fund’s ability to provide general assistance is dependent on voluntary contributions from states and non-state entities.

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Victims’ Rights Working Group

The Coalition helped to establish the Victims’ Rights Working Group (VRWG) — a network of over 300 civil society organizations that works to ensure that victims’ rights at the ICC are protected and respected.

Established in 1997, the VRWG played a crucial role in the drafting of the Rome Statute, ensuring that important provisions on victims’ rights were included in the Court’s founding document.


Building trust a must

While victims of atrocity crimes are at the heart of the ICC’s work, local communities often find it difficult to understand or follow courtroom proceeding far away in The Hague. Much work remains to be done to bring justice closer to communities affected by ICC crimes.

Outreach: an uphill battle 

Several ICC offices have been engaged in making justice more visible over the past years. The Court’s Registry, predominately through its outreach unit, does essential work to promote better understanding of the Court and its judicial processes in countries where the prosecutor is investigating, thereby managing expectations and addressing misconceptions. 

ICC outreach activities are designed to promote understanding of and support for the Court’s mandate in ICC situation countries, thereby managing expectations and enabling affected communities to follow and understand ICC processes, by engaging them in a two-way dialogue. 

Outreach is also vital to creating conditions conducive to facilitating participation and legal representation of victims in ICC proceedings; explaining due process rights; facilitating redress for affected communities; and creating an enabling and supportive environment for field engagement and presence. 

Early and direct outreach with victims and affected communities helps ensure the cost efficient implementation of the ICC legal mandate with regards to victims’ participation. 

Read more about how we work to make justice visible the world over.