Reparations for Historical Wrongs

On 14 April 2016, The Hague Institute and Doughty Street International hosted a panel discussion on Reparations for Historical Wrongs.

The issue of reparations for historical wrongs and mass crimes is an issue of contemporary importance. One need only look at reparation claims made and awarded in the past year, including Namibia’s quest for reparations by Germany in relation to genocide committed against the Herero and Nama tribes at the beginning of 1900; the award of over $1m in relation to victims of sexual slavery during the war in Guatemala, Greek claims at the beginning of 2015 for reparations of Germany in relation to Nazi crimes; and the ongoing debates about reparations for slavery, to appreciate the significance of the issue.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court provides for reparation for victims of serious crimes. But this applies only to victims of these crimes committed after the coming into force of the Rome Statute, on 1 July 2002. Before that time, no such general scheme existed for victims of mass crimes. Nonetheless, many argue that victims of historic crimes should receive reparations. This raises important questions, such as what grounds exist in international law and what current legal mechanisms apply? Is there a right to reparations? Who can make these claims and against which actors, especially when the crimes were committed so long ago that neither victims nor perpetrators are still alive. What are the difficulties with reparations for historic and/or mass crimes and what are the alternatives? When financial compensation is requested in relation to mass crimes, how should this be divided and where would the money come from?

This panel discussion focused on these and other questions and explored concrete situations and examples.

  • Judge Ann Power-Forde, Judge at the ECtHR from 2008-2014
  • Professor Liesbeth Zegveld, lawyer at Prakken d’Oliveira and Professor of War Reparations at the University of Amsterdam
  • Ms. Kirsty Brimelow QC, international human rights lawyer at Doughty Street International
  • Dr. Lyal Sunga, Head of the Rule of Law program at The Hague Institute

The discussion was moderated by Mr. Stephen J. Rapp, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues and currently a Distinguished Fellow at The Hague Institute for Global Justice.

Further Reading