Crowd-Funding for the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims

Students enrolled in my Policy Lab at Stanford Law School on Legal & Policy Tools to Prevent giving-tuesdayAtrocities were asked to undertake a project dedicated to generating new ideas for funding international justice to ensure more stable funding streams for contemporary justice efforts.

The funding of international and hybrid courts has been a perennial challenge, and almost every ad hoc tribunal to date has gone over budget. (The Extraordinary African Chambers, which tried Hissène Habré has been the most economical to date). There is no question that the costs of international justice appear high, although not necessarily when compared to the cost of other international interventions in atrocity situations, such as peacekeeping missions, humanitarian relief efforts, and military action. The most stable source of funding available has come from U.N. assessed contributions, which enables burden-sharing and forward planning. As creatures of the Security Council, the ICTY and ICTR benefited from such U.N. funding.

Most modern hybrid tribunals, however, have depended on voluntary contributions, which has proven to be unsustainable in the long-run. Ambassador David Scheffer, U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Expert on United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, has done a yeoman’s job of keeping the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in the black, but it hasn’t been easy. Over the years, the various tribunals and special chambers have been governed by different funding mechanisms and different budgetary arrangements with the host state. This is due in part to policy preferences but also to quasi-legal arguments about the availability of assessed contributions for independent entities with indirect United Nations involvement. Almost half of the funding for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, for example, comes from Lebanon itself, which often teeters on the edge of being in arrears when domestic political support for the STL wanes.

My studealinant, Alina Utrata (left), and undergraduate at Stanford, took the lead on this project and developed a new crowd-funding platform dedicated to raising funds from people around the world for the International Criminal Court’s Trust Fund for Victims (TFV):  Go Fund Justice! Working with staff from the TFV, Alina built a website, created original content about the TFV, and launched a social media campaign in connection with Giving Tuesday.


This idea has great appeal; she has already reached 30% of her goal of raising $10,000.  Her explanation of this initiative is below:

Dear friends, family, and community members,

This year, on Tuesday, November 29, 2016, Go Fund Justice is participating in #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving. Last year, more than 45,000 organizations in 71 countries came together to celebrate #GivingTuesday.

Go Fund Justice is a crowd-funding initiative for the Trust Fund for Victims. The Trust Fund for Victims of the International Criminal Court is responsible for giving assistance and reparations to communities who have suffered from mass atrocities under the jurisdiction of the ICC.

That means they do things like things like providing prosthetic limbs and plastic surgery; trauma and counseling services; or vocational and financial training. Their work empowers victims to return to a dignified and contributory life within their communities. By focusing on healing the wounds caused by atrocities, the TFV hopes to foster a sustainable and long-lasting peace.

We hope that this Giving Tuesday you consider supporting Go Fund Justice. Even ten dollars can go a long way towards providing someone with a prosthetic limb or trauma counseling. You can also click here to hear about the experience of people who the Trust Fund for Victims has supported.

We also ask that you forward this information to just five members of your community. Spreading the word can help us make a difference! Click here to donate now to Go Fund Justice!

Expert Report on Trauma Mental Health and Mass Rape: Prosecutor v. Bemba

The landmark judgment in the Prosecutor v. Bemba case before the International Criminal Court marks the first jurisprudence from the Court in a prosecution dedicated to redressing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) (see our coverage here and here).  The Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Lab (“Lab”) at Stanford University submitted an experts’ brief in the sentencing phase of the case.  (Bemba was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment). My colleague Dr. Daryn Reicherter of the Stanford University Medical School Department of Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences testified in the case. A redacted version of the brief is now available here.

The Lab is an interdisciplinary program based at Stanford University comprising members of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, the School of Law (yours truly), the Handa Center for Human Rights & International Justice, and the Palo Alto University Clinical Psychology program.  The lab faculty and staff include treating academic psychiatrists, professors of medicine, private treating psychotherapists and social workers, human rights lawyers, law professors, and graduate and undergraduate students. Lab members have thus amassed considerable expertise in trauma mental health from a range of disciplinary perspectives.

Our submission was based on our review of the evidence and trial record, including the expert reports and trial testimony of Dr. André Tabo and Dr. Adeyinka M. Akinsulure-Smith, PhD.  We situated this evidence within a comprehensive and comparative literature review on the psycho-social impact of sexual violence and other forms of extreme trauma on individuals, their families, and their communities.  In addition, we reviewed testimony from victims in the Bemba trial in order to show a direct connection between the literature, the expert testimony, and actual events in the Central African Republic (CAR). In particular, we relied upon our knowledge of empirical research that links trauma exposure with psychophysiological and neurobiological outcomes, thereby elucidating the mechanisms by which sexual violence and other forms of extreme trauma give rise to the psychosocial outcomes documented in the trial record.  The Report was informed by the Lab’s long experience treating, representing, and working with victims of severe trauma in communities wracked by massive human rights violations.  On a more hopeful note, the brief also discussed the prospects for healing, notwithstanding these grave impacts.

The Bemba trial record is replete with harrowing evidence of the scale of SGBV in the CAR in the timeframe under consideration. Women who took part in Dr. Tabo’s survey of women who presented at Bangui National Hospital, for example, described a staggering range of sexual violence at the hands of the troops under Bemba’s command and control.  These victims had been raped in their homes, while running away, and/or on their way to a relative’s home. Some victims were the target of gang rape, systematically committed.  In many cases, family and community member leaders were raped or forced to witness the rape.  All told, out of the 512 women surveyed, 408 (80%) were sexually or physically assaulted.

As discussed in more detail in the expert brief, the psychiatric literature predicts very poor functional outcomes for victims of sexual assault.  The resulting myriad of individual consequences includes psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Outside of these named mental health diagnoses, individuals suffer from abject feelings of hopelessness, spiritual degradation, heightened suspiciousness, persistent confusion, and fear. Victims of trauma can see themselves as vulnerable, view the world as lacking meaning, and view themselves as lacking worth.

The brief ends on an uplifting note, notwithstanding this empirical and cross-cultural research on the impact of SGBV on the human psyche. While very few men and women who are the victims of sexual violence remain unaffected by this experience, it is possible for survivors to go on to lead meaningful lives after a sexual assault with appropriate treatment and psycho-social rehabilitation.  The concept of post-traumatic growth (PTG) captures experiences of positive change that occur as a result of highly challenging or traumatic stressful life events.  PTG is a concept with roots in ancient philosophy regarding the potentially transformative power of suffering, but it has also been supported in current empirical research.  This possibility for the victims of Bemba’s subordinates underscores the importance of the current phase of the case devoted to reparations.  This will be the Court’s second reparations order; the first was issued in the Lubanga case.

Technology & Accountability MOOC

I am pleased to share that the Program on Liberation Technology (LibTech) at Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law together with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) are proud to launch a free massive open online course (MOOC): Technology for Accountability Lab.  The official announcement follows:

The course is geared for global democracy activists, software developers and other stakeholders to conceptualize, plan and implement technological tools and advocacy strategies to improve transparency by opening political and governmental processes.

This 10-week course – which starts on August 9, 2016 – will feature video lectures by Stanford professors Terry Winograd and Larry Diamond, as well as lecturers from NDI, Transparency International, Sunlight Foundation, Creative Commons, ProPublica, and other experts.

The course includes topics such as monitoring corruption, tracking money in politics, and using technology to monitor election fraud. In order to be relevant to a broad international audience, the course draws case studies and presentations from Brazil, Czech Republic, India, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, US, UK and other countries.

Through a grant made possible by the Steven’s Initiative at the Aspen Institute (supported by the State Department and the Bezos Family Foundation), the course materials have been translated into Arabic. For the first time on Stanford Online, participants will have the option of taking the course through an Arabic platform – with extensive language support – to facilitate the participation of youth in the Middle East and North Africa.

Course topics will expose participants to both theoretical and practical applications of the field, which include: monitoring corruption at the grassroots; tracking legislators and their bills; using technology to monitor election fraud; tracking money in politics; and designing innovative technology tools. Participants will also have the option to collaborate on projects to design or implement real-world democracy tools, including advocacy materials, during the course.

NDI and Stanford’s CDDRL – who both have a long tradition of working with democracy activists around the world – developed and designed the course in response to activists’ interest in incorporating technology into their work. The course aims to attract a unique set of global participants with a background in accountability movements who can learn more about the tools that can help them to enrich and magnify their work. No previous experience or exposure to technology is required.

To learn more about the course and register, please visit the course link. Please share this announcement widely with interested participants and professional networks (#TFALAB).Accountability MooC