International criminal courts: no precedent for individual reparations

Cases in Sierra Leone and Guatemala offer some guidance

By , Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

No precedent exists for an international criminal or hybrid court to award individual reparations, although national truth-and-reconciliation commissions have urged individual governments to try.

The thousands who were raped and maimed in Sierra Leone's 11-year civil war, which ended in 2002, are now registering with the government's National Commission for Social Action to receive money as well as education and health-care benefits to compensate for their loss. In Guatemala, where 64,000 requests are pending from victims of the country's 36-year civil war, the government is responding with compensation payments ranging from $1,500 to $2,500.

For better or worse, victims of the Khmer Rouge now have expectations for the long-awaited tribunal and what it will award for reparations, says Ruben Carranza, a senior associate in International Center for Transitional Justice reparations unit in New York.

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"There's still some hope the court will cast an approach that is feasible and, while not satisfying everyone, will provide the basic acknowledgement that all the victims need," Mr. Carranza says.

"It's not too late," he adds, "but they're running out of time."

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