The International Criminal Court Friday ordered 297 victims of ex-Congolese warlord Germain Katanga to each be paid "a symbolic" $250 in damages for a brutal 2003 attack on their village, in the tribunal's first such award.
Awarding both individual and collective damages, the court also found that Katanga was liable for one million dollars of the total damages estimated at $3.7 million (3.4 million euros).
Katanga was sentenced by the ICC to 12 years in jail in 2014, after being convicted on five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the February 2003 ethnic attack on Bogoro village in Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He was accused of supplying weapons to his militia in the attack in which some 200 people were shot and hacked to death with machetes.
"The chamber has assessed the scope of the prejudice to 297 victims as $3,752,620. The chamber sets the amount to be contributed by Mr Katanga towards the reparations as one million dollars," said presiding judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut.
He recognised however that Katanga, currently imprisoned in Kinshasa where he is on trial on other charges arising out of the unrest in the Ituri region, was penniless or "indigent" and had no home or possessions.
The court acknowledged that the "symbolic amount of $250 to each victim of Mr Katanga ... does not make up for the totality of the crime," Perrin de Brichambaut said.
However it "can grant some measure of autonomy to the victims by making it possible for them to engage in some kind of activity... and make relevant decisions pertaining to their current needs."
Friday's order for reparations is a landmark step for the tribunal, set up in 2002 to prosecute the world's worst crimes, and marks the first time that monetary values have been placed on the harm caused by such crimes.
The court asked the Trust Fund for Victims, set up under the tribunal's founding guidelines to support victims, to consider using its resources to pay for the reparations and to come up with a plan for the court by late June.
Legal representatives for the victims had assessed the damage caused by the attack at $16.4 million in a filing to the court last year.
Katanga was watching Friday's order from his prison in Kinshasa, while five victims representing the group followed in the village of Bunia with their lawyers.
This article was published on The New Indian Express on March 24, 2017.