New project on Truth commissions and sexual violence

We congratulate a team of researchers lead by Elin Skaar (CMI), Research leader for the Courts, Judicial Behaviour & Transitional Justice Unit at LawTransform, who has been awarded a grant from the Norwegian Research Council to investigate “TRUTH COMMISSIONS AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE: African and Latin American Experiences”. The grant has a duration of 3 years (2021-24) with funding of 6 000 000 NOK.

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.

Project team: Elin Skaar (PI), Pilar Domingo, Hugo van der Merwe, Nomathamsanqa Masiko, Rachel Sieder, Adriana Rudling, Helga Malmin Binningsbø.

Reference group of experts: Ruth Rubio-Marin, Torunn Tryggestad, Catalina Smulovitz, Eric Wiebelhaus-Brahm, Onur Bakiner, Camila Gianella, Carlo Koos, Betty Murungi, Solomon Ayele Dersso, Lisa Denney, Susanne Buckley-Zistel.