Reparations to victims are often seen as a central aspect of a more victim-oriented approach to justice and peace in the wake of mass atrocities. In what can be described as a potentially significant shift in which international criminal justice is conceived, the International Criminal Court (ICC) became the first international criminal justice body to which individual victims of mass crimes could submit claims for reparations. Other internationalised criminal courts now also consider reparations for victims, most notably the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Yet, the role and extent of reparations in international criminal justice have remained contested among scholars, practitioners and activists, and considerable uncertainty surrounds how these reparations schemes work.
Christoph’s doctoral thesis traces the process through which the idea of reparations for victims has taken shape through legalisation and materialisation in different mass atrocity settings. As a result of contested legalisation, contradictions and competing visions for reparations have become embedded in the legal frameworks and institutional architecture of international(-ised) criminal courts. When coming into contact with the different social and cultural contexts of the first cases before the ICC and the ECCC – the DR Congo and Cambodia – actors at and around the courts have developed various practices to manage these tensions. Building on fieldwork in The Hague and Phnom Penh, Christoph examines these practices and concludes with some observations about the unsettled nature of reparations in international criminal justice.
Before joining RegNet, Christoph Sperfeldt worked mainly in the fields of human rights and transitional justice, with a focus on Southeast Asia. He has been Deputy Director at the Asian International Justice Initiative (AIJI), a joint program of the East-West Center and the Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University, where supports regional human rights and justice sector capacity-building efforts in the ASEAN region. Prior to this, Christoph was Senior Advisor with the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Cambodia. View his RegNet profile here.