Sexual violence committed during war or internal armed conflict is a major global challenge. Though conflict related sexual violence (CRSV) affects women, men, girls, and boys, women and girls are disproportionately affected. CRSV has mostly remained under-addressed during transitions from conflict and repressive regimes. Some governments have tried to address conflict-related-sexual-violence through truth commissions, whose job it is to document human rights violations and provide recommendations to remedy the past and prevent future violations.
This project investigates how Latin American and African truth commission since the early 1980s have dealt with CRSV throughout their operations and in their recommendations. To what extent have changing international norms and legal frameworks shaped the agenda of truth commissions when it comes to CRSV? And how have truth commissions contributed to advancing the Women, Peace, and Security agenda (set by UN Security Council Resolution 1325) and its focus on the gendered experience of conflict?
By establishing a first-ever database on the connections between truth commissions, CRSV, and international law, the project provides an empirical basis for cross-regional research and analysis on the impact of collective truth-seeking in addressing legacies of CRSV. Our database comprises all African and Latin American truth commissions established by the state – around 40 truth commissions in all. It covers around 200 contextual and thematic specific questions for each truth commission. In connection with this extensive database, our research teams have also prepared short country notes on each truth commission. These mini-country studies provide an overview of the conflict and the violence, and detail how the truth commissions have dealt with the violence. The country notes for all African countries are finalized and the country notes for Latin America are currently in progress. The data collected so far shows that there are huge variations in how truth commissions have dealt with sexual and conflict related violence. While the early truth commissions established in the 1980s and early 1990s (i.e. before the Rwanda genocide) hardly touched upon CRSV at all, more recently established commissions have this form for violence high on their agendas. Countries like Kenya and Sierra Leon, have had truth commissions that quality as “best practices” commissions in the area of sexual and gender-based violence.
This research has direct relevance to scholarly and policy discourses on transitional justice in Africa and Latin America, and it also informs wider theoretical and policy discussions. The project has policy implications for the design of truth commissions and recommendations that are of direct relevance to improving how CRSV can be addressed. Project findings will be relevant for the management of expectations generated by truth commissions among policymakers, activists, survivors and the wider public. Findings from this project will, among other things, be included in a planned book entitled "Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence through Truth Commissions: A Practitioner Handbook."
The project is carried out by an interdisciplinary research team based at the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) (Norway), the Centre for the Study of Violence & Reconciliation (CSVR) (South Africa), and ODI (UK) in collaboration CIESAS (Mexico) and PRIO (Norway).
Sexual violence committed during war is one of the great global challenges. UNSCR1325 has its 20th anniversary in 2020. This landmark resolution commits the international community to take account of the gendered experience of conflict and violence and launched the Women, Peace and Security agenda. An otherwise large literature on transitional justice has paid virtually no attention to how truth commissions interact with this policy agenda.
This project investigates how Latin American and African truth commission since the early 1980s have dealt with conflict related sexual violence (CRSV) throughout their operations and in their recommendations, thus assessing how TCs may have contributed (or not) to this global agenda, taking changing international norms and legal frameworks into account.
The research has primary relevance to intellectual and policy discourses on transitional justice in Africa and Latin America but carries a broader theoretical and policy potential. By establishing an empirically-based database on the connections between TCs and CRSV, the project provides an analytical basis for cross-regional research on the impact of collective truth-seeking mechanisms.
The project has policy implications for the design of TCs and recommendations that are credible and likely to be implemented in the field of CRSV, and for the management of expectations generated by TCs among policymakers, activists, and mass publics.
The project will be carried out jointly by an interdisciplinary research team based at the Chr. Michelsen Institute (Norway), the Centre for the Study of Violence & Reconciliation (South Africa), and Overseas Development Institute (UK) in collaboration CIESAS (Mexico) and PRIO (Norway) . The project builds on previous work on transitional justice, truth commissions & CRSV in Latin America and Africa undertaken by the core research team and is intended to further strengthen competence in this rapidly expanding scholarly and policy field.