This Article is the transcript of the Peace Lecture held by Prof. Zegveld as part of the Peace Week 2013. It criticises the fact that Western countries do not provide data on the numbers of civilian casualties their wars cause. It remains controversial whether this is the consequence of a choice ‘not to do body counts’, or whether the governments does not want these figures to be revealed. In any case, the absence of this data leads to a de facto denial of the existence of these victims. This is reflected by the difficulties encountered when accountability and compensation are sought. It is argued here that there is a legal obligation to register victim casualties, as well as a necessity to do so from democratic, military and moral perspectives. For, as a component of conflict in itself, we can only truly evaluate our wars when the victim casualties are known.
This article examines whether victims can claim rights of their own before international criminal courts. These courts remain divided on the role of victims. Even when they allow victims to participate and claim reparation, it is a restricted participation. Before the icc victims have a third-party role, being merely additional to the procedure. What’s more victims are treated collectively. They are assigned a collective representative, their right to choose legal counsel thus not being an absolute right. Due to the high number of victims and with an apparent wish to bring as many victims as possible in the procedure, also reparations are granted collectively. Reparations are provided to victims and communities even if they have not applied for reparations, setting aside individual claims. The result is that victims are the target of reparation, they are treated as objects rather than subjects who can demand a remedy.