Buffalo Human Rights Law Review

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This article reviews and critically assesses the Rome Statute's complex victim reparation and assistance regime. The regime is a dual one, characterized by its reliance both on reparations ordered by the International Criminal Court and assistance provided by the Trust Fund for Victims. Both approaches raise a series of quantitative, qualitative, scope and contextual problems which are very imperfectly answered at present. In particular, there is a risk that the broader needs of transitional justice will be omitted as falling neither under "reparations" or "assistance." Rather than address the issue of the best reparations/assistance regime in the abstract, this article explores the real-world potential of a particular form of transitional practice, namely the construction of shrines, memorials and museums to commemorate victims of mass crimes. I conclude that there are complex ties between the construction of such "monuments" and memory, transitional justice, and victim expectations. Moreover, there is a discreet but constant practice of fitting the building of such commemorative monuments both within judicial theories, such as responsibility and reparation, and less formal processes of reckoning with the past, such as truth commissions. The experience of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in ordering monuments as reparations is highlighted as evidence of an innovative international best practice. This article seeks to assess how this experience could be transferred to the ICC/TFV context. I conclude that, although additional complexities would arise, there is no reason why the Rome Statute's victim reparation and assistance regime could not order or encourage the building of so-called "sites of conscience." Such action would better manage victim expectations, make good use of scarce resources, address collective victim needs, make sense symbolically of the harm caused, provide a more complex narrative of events than international criminal verdicts, highlight multiple causes and responsibilities, and help distinguish the ICC and TFV's efforts from competing initiatives. It would, in other words, help better integrate international criminal justice with transitional justice goals.