On air: Should the families of victims of conflict receive compensation?

There’s been angry scenes and protests in Belfast in Northern Ireland today. A government-sponsored commission has recommended that the families of all of the 3,700 people who died in the three decades long Troubles, should receive a one-off payment of $17,000 as ‘recognition’ of their loss. The idea has been slammed by many politicians and victims’ relatives. Read one of their stories here.

It’s happened elsewhere. In Chile in 2006 the families of 12 dissidents killed under the military’s regime were awarded $112 million.

As part of Libya’s deal to come back into the international fold, it paid $1.5 billion to relatives of victims of terror attacks blamed on Tripoli.

Other countries have taken a different route. South Africa famously held a Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the end of apartheid where people simply admitted the crimes they had committed to their victims and families, and in many cases said sorry. It’s generally thought to have been a success in helping the country move forward.

So does money, whether you call it compensation or a ‘recognition payment’ help to heal the wounds? Would a simple admission of wrongdoing and a ‘sorry’ be enough?

And what about the question of who should actually get the compensation? In the case of Northern Ireland, what’s really inflamed debate is that the money would be offered to both the families of innocent victims as well as to the families of killers. Is that fair? Are you just as much a victim of war if you killed people before being killed yourself as if you were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Could you ever envisage a day when the victims on both sides in the current conflict in Gaza might receive money from the other side? And would it make a difference anyway?

47 Responses to “On air: Should the families of victims of conflict receive compensation?”

  1. 1 Mohammed Ali
    January 28, 2009 at 13:52

    If everyone who loss a person in a conflict were to be compensated, the world will simply run out of money. For example here in Liberia over 250,000 persons died in the civil war. Compensation for them would mean that we’ll have to sell the entire country for that purpose.

  2. January 28, 2009 at 14:11

    James from Kenya here.

    They should be given something not as compensation but as cover for costs incurred. Its the word compensation that’s demonized. But if people lose their property, why not help them have a fresh start by giving them start up cash.

  3. January 28, 2009 at 14:24

    Ah, can “your” money bring our loved ones back to us from their graves ?! If yes then “your” apology will be accepted and the money “you” pay us will help heal our wounds… Otherwise, no, we’re simply not interested in “your” money, sorry ! With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad, Iraq…

  4. 4 Ogola Benard
    January 28, 2009 at 14:47

    In the present world everything is about forgiving and compensation as i see it, should also be given in that the victims should have been adaily bread earner for their families. people can keep on graging – its no benefit atall!

  5. January 28, 2009 at 15:02

    Iran Must Compensate Expats!
    TEHRAN – Tehran, Washington dialogue simply won’t happen unless both sides make sacrifices.
    What does Tehran want to do with the thousands and millions of expats now living in Europe and US?
    The People’s Mojahedin have come off Europe’s terrorist list. Why can’t they be reunited with their families in Iran?
    There are hundred of splinter groups in the world. Why can’t Sri Lanka’s government and Tamils return to the negotiating table?
    What is going to happen to the scores of renegade factions in Afghanistan? Why can’t NATO make an effort to bring them to the negotiating table as Afghan President Hamid Karzai has suggested?
    If money can solve Belfast unrest, pay them, otherwise protests will degenerate into bitter confrontation!
    Peaceful settlement of apartheid in South African was a miracle! It still needs work.
    If only Ian Smith had got a little help and understanding in 1965, Zimbabwe wouldn’t be in the sorry mess that it is today.
    Palestinians in Gaza must be compensated. Who is going pay for reconstruction of the region? It is inadmissible in this day and age that anyone should willfully destroy and annhilate other men and property simply because they are powerful.

  6. 6 Ogola Benard
    January 28, 2009 at 15:09

    Reconciliation is the key to solving every problem and in the present times the world fast to do better things other than lagging on non developmental things. people should think why others explore the moon, better health care, environment improvement and betterment of life !

  7. 7 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    January 28, 2009 at 15:13

    I think wholesale “compensation” is a bad idea that sets a dangerous precedent. Compensation might be correct in certain cases. However, in a place like Northern Ireland there are surely “wrongful death” statutes in the law that would cover those cases.

    Instead of handing out money to everyone who lost a loved one, it would be better to work to bring local and international law–and the speedy application of local and international law–up to a standard that would compensate people on a case-by-case basis whenever and where ever tragedy occurs.

  8. January 28, 2009 at 15:18

    If the instigators of wars do they paying, then yes. However the more I learn about history, the more the same evidence surfaces:

    That International financiers are behind most wars. They typically fund both sides and they invest heavily in arms production and when both sides are economically devastated, they swoop in and buy assets at low prices.

    The only solution to war is: Get rid of the international bankers.

  9. January 28, 2009 at 15:35

    Morocco is the first Arab country to compensate for the victims of human rights abuses between independence in 1956 and the end of King Hassan’s reign in 1999, during which 592 people were killed, the Equity and Reconciliation Committee. Some received more than USD 300,000 in compensation.

    Money is just a means to compensate the victims, but there is no money to compensate for the lost years in imprisonment under torture. Many leave the prison in critical health conditions and die just after receiving their compensation.

    For Morocco, the compensation of former victims of human rights abuses has been a success. Outstanding political prisoners have become involved in politics, by joining existing or newly formed political parties. Many exiled politicians returned. At least the compensations have secured political stability in Morocco – although the Islamists, hundreds of whom are now in prison, still constitute a dangerous factor for the regime in Morocco.

  10. January 28, 2009 at 16:20

    yes i agree they must be compensiated it is there right

  11. 12 Roy, Washington DC
    January 28, 2009 at 16:48

    No. Conflict has always been a fact of life, and it always will be a fact of life. It is unfortunate that there will be innocent victims, but that’s life.

  12. 13 sulayman Dauda
    January 28, 2009 at 17:04

    yes but depend on type of conflict

  13. January 28, 2009 at 17:15

    How do you place a value of human life?

    The government to acknowledge the death, apologize and build a memorial to remember the innocent lives sacrificed. Personally, I would not want the money, giving me $10,00 or a million dollar would feel like a pay off.

  14. 15 Anthony
    January 28, 2009 at 17:19

    Here is kind of a funny question, why do the families deserve it?

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  15. January 28, 2009 at 17:26

    Like this debate in Ireland now, the ‘Reparations Movement’ here has mostly attracted the support of groups and individuals felt to be outside of the ‘establishment’, even if not directly stated. Those within the ‘establishment’ are, in effect, perceived as complicit with the oppression of the descendants of African slaves, currently, the vast majority of who either operate outside of the enclaves of power and or are, more often than not, members of the lower classes.

    My view is that, where a crime created through war or some other form of violence, as in the case of enslavement of entire generations of peoples, that there should be official acknowledgement and payment to make redress. The question of the division of the payment can always be worked out but should not, by itself, become a premise on which to avoid making restitution.

    Further, the monies paid should, realistically, reflect the other party’s efforts at restablishing equity, stolen or otherwise.

  16. 17 archibald in oregon
    January 28, 2009 at 17:30

    If injuries sustained can be directly linked to the gov’t and its militia, they should be forced to compensate the victims, who were forced to comply with gov’t dictates. It may break the bank, but, gov’ts in general should think about these things before taking costly, bloody actions against there own people.

  17. 18 Justin from Iowa
    January 28, 2009 at 18:06

    My problem with wholesale compensation to people who die in conflict, is that granting that compensation is a way for those who caused death and hardship to legitimize their actions, or off-set them at least, and escape rightful punishment.

  18. 19 rotoye
    January 28, 2009 at 18:11

    “COMPENSATION” is to reduce the pain of a loss in an avoidable situation. It does not remove the suffering. it only helps the victims beneficiaries to feel less pain as a result of the loss. It may be symbolic or significant, but it should be institutionalized. It helps to reduce the possibility of revenge.

  19. 20 Danielle
    January 28, 2009 at 18:17

    I cannot imagine losing a loved one, especially in a political conflict. Yes, there should be some way to provide compensation for those left in unimaginable greif. I realize it would be difficult to fund and distribute a compensatory system. It might also be difficult to determine deserving recipients from those trying to scam the system. Perhaps the answer could be an international fund which all countries pay into. In this way, we could eliminate the squabbles over who must pay. All that matters is that there is some minimal form of justice for the extreme atrocities innocent people must face at the hands of warring nations and such.

  20. 21 Chernor
    January 28, 2009 at 18:22

    I would rather have my cousin who was killed in January 2009 in Freetown alive than have any quantum of leones or dollars. Justice is all I need

  21. 22 nan
    January 28, 2009 at 18:26

    nan here from the philippines

    if “compensation” is granted…accept it. but make it clear that it doesn’t change nor erase the fact that lives were lost, and those left living suffered so much pain.
    then, start moving on.

  22. 23 Venessa
    January 28, 2009 at 18:29

    Handing out blood money is a slippery slope. If it becomes the standard I’m sure more people without legitimacy will have their hands out.

  23. 24 Lynn
    January 28, 2009 at 18:36

    Why must pain and suffering always be reduced to economic terms. In America the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing were not compensated as the victims of the World Trade Center bombings were. Are the victims of the Oklahoma bombing worth less? Governments should have safety net services for people who are victims of violence, whether it is from a war or crime. Who is qualified to determine who is ‘worthy’ of compensation?

  24. 25 Matt
    January 28, 2009 at 18:40

    Victims of terrorism, torture and war crimes deserve justice. The perpetrators of such heinous crimes should be punished.

    Why, though, is the family of a victim of a war crime or terrorist attack more deserving of compensation than that of one who is killed in a “regular” crime, or a car accident, or a heart attack? They have all suffered. They have all lost a family member. They hurt in the same ways.

    This came up in the US with the compensation (from tax dollars) that was given to the victims of the 9-11 attacks. What those people, and the victims of Rwanda and Darfur and Northern Ireland and many (too many) other places and times, and their families suffered was horrible. The whole world should extend its sympathy and support to them, and should demand that those culpable be brought to justice. But people suffer from many, many causes all the time, and all their suffering is real. Why are these victims of suffering specially deserving of monetary compensation?

  25. 26 Mary Ann
    January 28, 2009 at 18:44

    This idea of paying compensation is insane. Where does it stop? Who pays? Who decides which are victims, and which are perpetrators? What about other effects of conflict: rape, kidnap, slavery? Will we compensate for those, also?? Justice, yes; sympathy, absolutely; compensation, absolutely not. The world is full of injustice, and energy should be spent ending all its varieties.

    Paying compensation will end up causing more pain and conflict: some will feel left out, and resentment will breed. Some will say they were not compensated enough. One group will be pitted against another. The damage cannot be undone, and this will only cause more. Money will never console human suffering, and it cannot replace justice.

  26. 27 Zainab from Iraq
    January 28, 2009 at 18:47

    Well, why not.. the families of the victims need all kind of compensation, not only emotionally, but also materially.. though money doesn’t heal wounds..but it may help the family to rebuild itself at a hard time.. for instance.. the family that lost the father..there is no one to help it at the moment..so this money may help it, yet this money can not make the family forget the father.

  27. 28 Ibrahim, Baghdad
    January 28, 2009 at 19:06

    It differs. According to circumstances, each case will need its own judgment.

    I know that there are people that would consider money compensation for losing a loved one as extremely offensive and outrageous–money for a human life, especially when the offensive had been intentional or, from their point of view, unjustified.

    However, there should be a compensation for property damage.

  28. 29 Nge Valentine
    January 28, 2009 at 19:09

    I do not realy see myself taking some financial compensation for a dead one. If you made me loose some property i will do so but not for a dead one. Human beings are the only beings on earth that have affection coupled with inteligence. If that should be the case, accepting compensations, i will allow my son or child go die in order to get some wealth.

    Let’s better talk of compensation of lost or destroyed wealth rather than human beings.

  29. 30 StPiquet USA
    January 28, 2009 at 19:26

    I agree with Mary Ann at 18:44.
    In America we had a long bloody civil war from 1861-1865. No cash compensation was paid to anyone save the ones who created all the weapons to fight the war. Until humanity can create justice we shall always have our victims of violence. Every day is a struggle to create justice and that is best achieved through communicating just as we are doing now, thank you BBC. When a country commits genocide the world must work together to stop it. When we do not, then the world must work together to help rebuild the infrastructure for a decent standard of living for peaceful healing. South Africa after Apartheid seems to be a good example of their confilict resolution, i think it could have been worse for all if it ended up with cash for victims or revenge justice.

  30. January 28, 2009 at 19:32

    @ Zainab from Iraq,

    I am agreed with you. Totally.

  31. January 28, 2009 at 19:33

    The point is that there needs to be multiple responses for a clearly very complex problem. We cannot rule out the need for material compensation, though, notwithstanding that it could never replace the lost family member(s).

  32. January 28, 2009 at 19:49

    I say that all that money would be better spent on a nicely done monument, in a place where all future citizens could be sit and reflect, reminded of the toll of war. In ten years, no one will remember their $17,000, and without a reminder, it would be easy to forget the folly of war as well.

  33. January 28, 2009 at 20:27



    As part of the Chilean extended family, let me explain the cost incurred by torture, kidnap and coup:

    Time is money under capitalism and looking for the disappeared, documenting wounds if you are lucky enough to find a body, tracking down the chain of guilty command and unearthing actual facts are very expensive on every level. Many lives are changed forever.

    Civil society allows a car crash victim to sue for damages. We must hang financial self-interest over the potential torturer because sociopaths only listen to self interest. How do we know we have a civil society when victims just have to take it on the chin?

  34. January 29, 2009 at 01:03

    Did the British Government compensate either the victims or so called perpetrators of the Guildford bombing?

    After the incredulity and then the euphoria of release from jail, the four people who had served 15 years for the Guildford pub bombings in 1974 had to find a life. Three are now married with families but the years of adjustment have been painful.

    Twenty-five years after four young people were wrongfully convicted of the Guildford pub bombings in 1974, Tony Blair was the first person in authority to apologise for the miscarriage of justice.

    Had I lost a son or daughter to the IRA during those dark times in Northern Ireland’s history I am sure a few thousand pounds today would not heal my grief.

    Here in Australia it has taken 200 years to say sorry to the Aboriginal, yet no compensation will go their way.

    So whats the point of it?

  35. 36 MarcusAureliusII
    January 29, 2009 at 02:10

    George Mitchel’s “achievement” may come apart at the seams. This is ominous news for his current assignment. Negotiating peace in NI is child’s play compared to the challenge of the Arab Israeli conflict. I think he should return immediately to NI to see what he can do to salvage what’s left of his “work” before it all “goes to pieces.”

  36. 37 Raydan
    January 29, 2009 at 05:51

    I think that countries and leaders could learn a lesson from compensation of innocent victims!!!

  37. 38 Raydan
    January 29, 2009 at 05:55

    I think that countries and leaders could learn a lesson from having to compensate innocent victims for collateral damages!!!

  38. January 29, 2009 at 16:58

    I think the South African method works better in healing wounds. Cash is a token solution, it doesnt heal the scars.

  39. January 29, 2009 at 18:36

    I think that handing out money is going down a slippery slope ….
    ~Dennis Junior~

  40. 41 Ibrahim in UK
    January 30, 2009 at 16:00

    Yes compensation should be part of the “package” towards reconciliation.
    To start healing the wounds of any conflict there are 3 essential ingredients:
    1. Acknowledgement that an injustice has taken place
    2. Accountability of the guilty parties and bringing them to justice
    3. Compensation (in whatever form) to help the victims rebuild their lives.

    The danger is that compensation is used as an escape from the requirement of justice.

  41. 42 Zef
    January 30, 2009 at 18:34

    Here in the USA each “state” is its own NATION! “United”. It doesn’t matter if you are from New Jersey, or Texas, you can work ANYWHERE in the USA.

    The EU is not so much different. The laws that bind the UK, Spain, France, Germany and ALL other EU nations, are very much the same that bind our US states.

    The EU can NOT try to build its self into a global economic and diplomatic super power, and yet, scream against the “Union” when its not “your own nations workers” getting the jobs.

    Here in the US we believe “Failure is for quitters”. You try hard, never give up, and you will achieve. Any other mindset, is pointless given these new economic realities.

    Brother England, I sympathize, but rise up and prove your workers better then ALL others! Accept Failure Never!

  42. 43 Zef
    January 30, 2009 at 18:37

    Wrong forum sorry… lol.

  43. 44 Emile Barre
    January 31, 2009 at 14:56

    Surely, everyone suffers in such conflicts and so everyone should be paid compensation on a pro rata basis according to the level of suffering endured by each individual.

  44. January 31, 2009 at 16:28

    Compensate people on a case-by-case basis whenever and where ever tragedy occurs.The suggesstion of Donnamarie in Switzerland seems to be practically possible but it has to be transparent and on well founded parameters.

  45. February 2, 2009 at 04:35

    How and what protocols would be used in a conflict to received compensation….What funding sources would the money be coming from?

    ~Dennis Junior~

  46. February 5, 2009 at 14:23

    It can follow the protocol and means to collect required money under the already existing set up operating through UN as GEF or as Global Peace fund.

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