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Bringing hope to victims in northern Uganda

4 March 2017 - 16:03

The Trust Fund for Victims is a quasi-independent agency of the International Criminal Court created for the benefit of victims of crimes within the jurisdiction of the court. In February representatives from the Trust Fund and the ICC visited northern Uganda to interact with victims of conflict in the region.

When I asked her when she got injured during the war times, her reply was: ‘’My child, I can’t remember the year I was born because I am not educated.’’

I later realized from her National Identity Card that Nijje Acayo is 80 years old and was born in 1937 in Lamwo, a district in northern Uganda.

Ms. Acayo is dressed in a long brown skirt and black shirt and is sitting on the veranda of the Gulu Regional Referral Hospital orthopedic workshop clinic. When she saw me coming to speak to her, she moved her artificial limb to the side so that I could sit.

She told me that she was hit by a landmine planted near her granary and since then, she has been depending on her artificial limb provided with support from the Trust Fund for Victims, which was established following the creation of the International Criminal Court.

Victims are also important people

According to Ms. Acayo, the ICC and the Trust Fund should increase their support for the victims who suffered grave injuries during the 20 year insurgency in northern Uganda.

‘’I can’t do much work now because my leg is very weak,” she says, “I am only able to do small business to raise some money and I feel the ICC should increase their financial support to us so that I can pay for my children to attend school.’’

Acayo added that the coming of the ICC President, Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, to Uganda is very important because it shows that the victims are also important people in the society.

Another victim, Patrick Okoya 25, who was abducted in June of 2003 from Anaka, said he was shot in 2005 in a battle between the LRA and the Uganda People’s Defence Force and later his left leg had to be amputated.

According to Mr. Okoya, the Trust Fund for Victims has brought him hope again by giving him artificial limbs, but he worries that the support may end soon.

‘’I appreciate the support offered by the Trust Fund for Victims because I can walk on both feet like any other normal person again. They should add more years of their support while we are still working on stabilizing our source of income.’’

The ICC can’t solve all problems

Speaking to victims at Gulu Hospital on Monday, Judge Fernández de Gurmendi said the ICC’s mission is not only to bring perpetrators of the worst crimes to justice but also to allow victims to participate in proceedings and seek reparation that may be ordered by the court if the accused is found guilty at the end of the trial.

She also visited victims at Lukodi and Awach in Gulu, where there are projects being implemented by the Trust Fund and said that the programme has been created to contribute to this mission and to provide assistance independently from the outcome of the case.

‘’The Trust Fund is only [here] to supplement and give modest contribution to specific the victims,” she said, “The Court can’t solve all problems but it can only give a small support so that justice is met.’’

According to Mr. Motoo Noguchi, the Chair of the Victims Trust Fund, a total of 3.148 million euros (11.965 billion shillings) have already been disbursed to help the victims since 2008.

Mr. Noguchi added that Trust Fund for Victims have worked with more than 25 locally based partners in 18 Districts in Uganda from Soroti to East Adjumani. A total of 45,000 victims have benefitted directly over 200,000 have been able to benefit indirectly, he says.

Ms. Joyce Laker Ocen, a Program Manager at AVSI Uganda, one of the implementing partners of the Trust Fund for Victims, said over 90 percent of the beneficiaries are fully rehabilitated and are no longer depending on others for livelihood support and physical care.

She further said that through the support from Trust Fund for Victims, communities in northern Uganda are getting to appreciate and seek professional counseling because the Trust Fund project provides holistic and comprehensive approach in rehabilitation. 

Photo: People in Lukodi watch as representatives from the Trust Fund for Victims and the International Criminal Court speak on 27 February 2017. Credit: Oryem Nyeko.

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