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Reparations Must Be Done With Full Participation of Victims...ICC Trust Fund Executive Director Tells TRC

The determination of adequate reparation must be done with the full participation of the victims taking into consideration their social and cultural reality, Andre Laperriere the executive director of the Trust Fund for Victims said.

He said furthermore a broad approach to reparations my also particularly compensate for the selective nature of trials.

Mr. Laperriere said there is no universal or unique formula to determine what constitutes adequate reparations adding that reparation in so far as rehabilitation is concerned, must reach out beyond the victims themselves, right into their social systems purposely compromise by the aggressors.

He was speaking Wednesday at the ongoing Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia three days hearings on Reparations at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia.

Mr. Laperriere said that people must collectively advocate for the victims to be heard in order for legal systems to be physically in place - not just on paper - given real powers, and for the courts to be given the humility they need to listen to the victims needs.

In the context of international courts, he said reparations cannot and should not be defined without the victims participation as good intent could severely compromise the objective sought if it fails to acknowledge the cultural reality of the victims.

"The social environment must accept them as victims, and not as symbols of shame when the crimes were committed they were victims of transgress taboos or trigger fear in the society. I am thinking here in particular of former child soldiers - boys and girls -, victims of rape, and victims of facial mutilations, all of which typically face a very strong rejection from the community, friends and family."

But Mr. Laperriere said that collective reparations are much more acceptable in some societies where individuals are closely integrated into their social environment, while in other much more individualistic cultures they would not be.

However, he said the challenge is for the society to find the find the right way to balance the victims need for accountability, with the social need for reconciliation.

"In order to define what constitutes the most appropriate reparations package for each specific situation, one has to take into consideration in a number of elements such as the social, religious, political and cultural environment, as well as the time elapsed since the crimes were committed.

The overriding objective of the hearing under the theme "Charting the Course of the TRC Reparations Agenda" which was arranged in partnership with the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation of the United States of America is to know and understand the value, cost and consequence of reparations on the TRC process, and to generate public opinion.

The hearing was expected to broaden the scope of the TRC Reparation Policy as stated in the Commission's Public Information Bulletin # 4. The objective of the hearing was to also add public opinion to what has been developed by the commission and other institutions on reparations.

Two years into the work of the TRC, the commission's Inquiry Unit (IU) in collaboration with the Program Unit has been reviewing the practical realities of addressing the reparations needs of victims, witnesses, and perpetrators of the Liberian Civil Conflict during the TRC process and in the context of the commission's thinking on reparations.

Several attempts by the TRC field workers to explain the issue of reparations to victims, witnesses, and perpetrators have led to request for more clarity. This is evidence by the number if individuals who appeal for restoration during the public hearings.

During these interactions, issues that stand out as major components for clarity are the value of the reparations in terms of damage done, the qualification of beneficiaries who are being heard during the TRC Public Hearings process over those who will not be heard due to time space. Others issues are the capacity of the Government of Liberia to pay out reparations and the future prospects of the TRC and Government to implement and or enforce transitional justice in term of reparations.

The HFG Foundation facilitated the travel cost of some experts from Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to share with the commissioners and other participants their experiences on reparations.

The TRC was agreed upon in the August 2003 peace agreement and created by the TRC Act of 2005.

The TRC was established to "promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation," and at the same time make it possible to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.

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