The President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, is currently on an official visit in Uganda. Travelling together with Board Members and the Director of the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV), it is her first official visit to the country.
During her visit, she has been visiting victim assistance projects supported by the TFV, an independent body associated with the Court.
TFV offers psychological and physical rehabilitation to those who suffered harm during the conflict in Northern Uganda.
While in Northern Uganda, the ICC has been participating in outreach sessions with local communities, engaging in dialogue with them, listening to their views and concerns. This is to bring the ICC closer to victims and affected communities.
She told the press in northern Uganda that, “your role is essential in raising awareness about the ICC and the importance of justice."
“I hope that ICC's work is making and will continue to make a modest but positive contribution to people’s lives in North Uganda.”
ICC investigations in Uganda opened in 2004 with regard to alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity mainly in Northern Uganda since 1 July 2002, the date on which the Court's jurisdiction begins.
The ICC issued its first ever arrest warrant in this situation, against Joseph Kony and other alleged LRA commanders, and currently has one ongoing trial related to this situation, in the case The Prosecutor v. Dominic Ongwen.
Northern Uganda victims have waited a long time for the justice process to start. It has started now started and is proceeding expeditiously, she added while addressing the communities.
Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi has been the ICC President since 11 March 2015 and was elected for a term of three years. The ICC is the first permanent international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, namely: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The ICC has been accused of targeting African leaders. But Gurmendi has disputed this, insisting that the ICC does not target countries or continents; it brings individuals to justice. ICC not only brings perpetrators to justice, but also redress to victims.
While appearing on Mega FM in Gulu, she said that the universality of the Rome Statute must be enhanced to address worst crimes in an equal manner.
“The Court intervenes to protect victims and to prevent future violence,” added the ICC president.
Though the TFV is separate from the Court, it was created under the Rome Statute system. The TFV's mission is to support and implement programmes that address harm resulting from genocide, crimes of humanity and war crimes. To achieve this mission, the TFV has a two-fold mandate: (i) to implement Court-Ordered reparations and (ii) to provide assistance through physical, psychological, and material support to victims and their families. The TFV's current activities in Uganda involve this second mandate: assistance.
According to the chairman of TFV, “more than 45,000 people have directly benefited from the TFV assistance programme”.
“In over 9 years, we have worked with more than 25 implementing partners in Northern Uganda,” he added.
The ICC president also raised the flag at the official opening of the Court Field Office.