The Hague, January30, 2008 (FH) - The Trust Fund for Victims, an organization arising from the International Criminal Court (ICC), notified the pre-trial chamber handling the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) of its intention "to undertake activities of assisting war victims in the war-torn African country.

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This project is a first, before the court, which could soon clarify in a concrete manner the paramount place of victims, allotted by the Rome Statute and which neither the military tribunal of Nuremberg nor the ad hoc international tribunals had provided.

The Trust Fund for Victims can, on its on volition and according to rules, decide to support victims in a given situation such as the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, without them being party to a case .

"International jurisprudence showed that the simple fact of engaging in prosecution is not enough to meet the needs of the victims in a post-war society, and that the desires of the victims go well beyond the concepts of retributive justice", according the Executive Director of the Ttrust Fund, Andre Laperriere, in a document transmitted to the judges on 24 January.

The chamber has 45 days to verify if the decision of the trust fund contravenes the fairness of the trial, the rights of the defence, the presumption of innocence or the admissibility of a case.

For the past one year, the fund has evaluated the requirements in the DRC and in Uganda, where the prosecutor has opened his first investigations.

In June, a first visit was made to Congo and followed by many consultations.

The members of the Trust Fund for Victims are former French Minister Simone Veil, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Pole Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Bulgaa Altangerel, from Mongolia.

The members of the trust fund fear that "the victims who will benefit from the activities (...) could be threatened because they will be regarded as having contacts with the Court.

The situation got worse following the arrests and will probably become more dangerous" with the opening of the trial of Germain Katanga and Thomas Lubanga, the two Congolese militia leaders prosecuted by the prosecutor and currently held by the Court.

The document further revealed that the activities financed by the fund will be supported by intermediaries, selected according to "their specialization, experience, presence, knowledge and their technical
expertise" and that it should benefit groups of victims, and not victims individually identified, among others.

The Trust Fund for Victims is one of two creations of the Rome Statute, said Laperriere.

"We are complementary, but 90% of our work is done at a distinct level",he added.

It is funded by donations from states, international organizations, companies and individuals.

By 31 December 2006, it had a budget of almost 2, 500, 000 Euros. It can act on its own behalf, as it is the case today, or following an order from the chamber, after the conviction of a defendant.

© Hirondelle News Agency